19th July 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Conradie collects first IGT pro win at Services
(PHOTO – Ruan Conradie; credit CJ du Plooy)
TSHWANE, 19 July 2017 – A combination of a cool head and a hot putter produced a maiden professional victory for Pretoria rookie Ruan Conradie in the Services Challenge on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old held off a charging JP Cooper at Services Golf Club to break his IGT Challenge Tour duck in style when he closed with a 68 to celebrate a three shot victory 14 under 202.
Conradie headed into the final round at 10 under and with a three shot cushion over younger brother Estiaan, however, a one under front nine opened the door to fellow Wingate Park golfer Cooper, who stormed through the pack with six birdies in the first 10 holes.
“JP started with three birdies in succession, while I birdied two and four and dropped six,” Conradie said. “I didn’t drive the ball great on the front nine, but my putting was solid. I had six one putts on the front nine and I saved some crucial pars to stay in the lead.
“I was 11 under through the turn, but he got within a shot with more birdies at six, seven, nine and 10. I knew I just needed to keep a cool head. I played the back nine well in the first two rounds. I knew I’d still have a chance if I could make a few birdies to widen the gap.”
Just when it looked as though the amateur would set an imposing clubhouse target, a bogey at 11 put the brakes on his run. Cooper added just one more red number to his card at the 15th hole to sign for a 65 that handed him the early lead at 11 under.
The putts continued to drop for Conradie, though.
“I sunk two great six-footers for par saves at 10 and 11 to keep the momentum going,” said the winner. “My tee shot at 12 finished just off the fairway on the left behind some trees. I punched a low shot out and finished just short. I had an easy chip-and-putt for a birdie and holing that five-footer gave me a nice little boost.”
Conradie boxed another five footer for birdie at 14 and made solid pars at 15, 16 and 17.
“To be honest, I never really felt in control, because I missed a few birdie chances, but I scrambled really well to reach the final hole with a two shot lead,” said Conradie.
“Standing on the tee at 18, I finally relaxed and I hit a great drive down the fairway. I had 125 meters to the pin and I told myself two putts would do it. I hit pitching-wedge in to 20 feet, lagged the first putt close and tapped in for the win.
“It feels great to know that I pulled it through. JP put the screws on through the first nine holes, but I stayed cool and that’s something I learned to do here on the IGT Challenge Tour.”
Competing against the likes of Sunshine Tour winners and players, like Merrick Bremner, Jake Redman, Makhetha Mazibuko, Big Easy winner Breyten Meyer, Callum Mowat, Tyrone Ferreira and Q-School champion Herman Loubser in his last three starts and breaking into the top five was a great source of inspiration for Conradie.
“I finished third in one and had top fives in the other two,” he said. “When you can put yourself in contention against players of that calibre, you start believing that you can win. Winning as a pro was a very different experience to the two events I won last year as an amateur. The pressure is intense and it’s a lot tougher mentally when you start competing for a cheque.”
Meanwhile Pieter Moolman from Benoni Country Club returned a 69 to finish in third on nine under, but Estiaan Conradie back-pedalled to fourth on six under with a 73.
“Estiaan led the amateur victories 3-2, but with this win, the pro wins are tied,” Conradie. “Next week we play the Wingate Challenge at our home course. Estiaan won his first IGT Challenge Tour title at Wingate and JP will be in the mix, too, so it won’t be easy, but I’m shooting for two-in-a-row.”