11th October 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour

Conradie claims Race to Q-School Copperleaf

(PHOTO – Estiaan Conradie with The Els Club Copperleaf Director of Golf Jaun Geyser; credit CJ du Plooy)

TSHWANE, 11 October 2017 – A courageous fight back over the last nine holes at The Els Club Copperleaf landed Pretoria rookie Estiaan Conradie in the winner’s circle in the first tournament of the 2017 Race to Q-School on Wednesday.

The 19-year-old Wingate Park golfer gave himself a brilliant early birthday present when he eclipsed his rivals six birdies on the back straight for a final round 69 to triumph by four strokes on 13-under-par 203.

Matt Bright took second with a 68, while older sibling Ruan Conradie closed with a 71 to finish in third on eight under.

His fifth IGT Challenge Tour victory – and second as a professional – helped Conradie to reduce the gap Order of Merit leader Ruan to just over R12,000 and levelling the trophy haul at five apiece comes with some benefits.

“The rule is that the winner drives the family Camry, so Ruan will be driving shot-gun for a while,” chuckled Conradie. “My parents usually take us out for dinner to celebrate our birthdays and I think Ruan should cover the bill tomorrow night, too.”

Conradie started the last day with a two shot lead, but he found himself trailing his brother after the first four holes.

“I dropped three shots in a row from the second and Ruan birdied the fourth to overtake Matt and myself for the lead,” he said. “I just started with the wrong strategy. The first two holes are birdie holes and you should be aggressive but I played the first couple of holes too defensively.

“I left myself too far from the hole and three-putted the second and the third, and I snap-hooked my second shot at the third and it flew straight into the hazard. At the short hole (five), I hit it to 12 foot and holed the putt to get one shot back.”

Brother Ruan also birdied eight to stay ahead, but dropped successive shots at six and seven to fall back to seven under. Both brothers birdied eight and parred the ninth, but Estiaan fired three birdied in a row from 10 to increase the gap on the chasing pack. Back-to-back bogeys at 13 and 14 put the brakes on his run, though.

“I drained a seven-foot downhill putt at 10, boxed a six foot left to right slider at 11 and holed a three-footer at 12,” explained the Wanna Be A Champion Academy golfer. “I actually overshot the flag at 12, but the ball hit the back slope and kept rolling until it died three feet from the hole.

“I thought I hit a good drive at 13, but I caught a bad bounce into the fairway bunker. I didn’t get out first try and missed an eight-footer to save par. At 14, the pin was tucked on the left and I short-sided myself when my tee shot finishes left of the green.”
Taking an aggressive approach into the last holes, Conradie racked up another trio of birdies from the 15th and signed off with a par at the closing hole.

“It definitely wasn’t pretty,” he said. “It was a roller-coaster of a round, because although the wind wasn’t as strong as the first two rounds, it was swirling constantly and club selection was really tough. I had to rely a lot on the putter to save me, but I got it done. I’m really pleased to win the first event to lead the Race to Q-School. My goal is to top the rankings at the end the series, so this is a perfect start.”

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