17th July 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour

Conradie cruises to Services Challenge lead

(PHOTO – Ruan Conradie; credit CJ du Plooy)

TSHWANE, 17 July 2017 – Pretoria rookie Ruan Conradie eagled the final hole at Services Golf Club to edge out Simon Kruger for the first round lead in the Services Challenge on Monday.

Kruger from Thabazimbi set the clubhouse target at five under, but the Wingate Park golfer drained a 25-footer for eagle at the par-five 18th to grab pole position at six-under-par 66.

“The final hole is a severe dogleg left and I actually wanted to take a Tiger-line to clear the trees and leave myself less than 150 metres to the pin for my second,” said Conradie. “I pushed it too far left and the ball ran through the fairway. I had seven-iron in and the ball landed 25 feet left of the flag, but I holed a slider for the eagle and the lead.”

One of Gauteng North Golf Union’s former top amateurs, Conradie began campaigning on the country’s premier golf development circuit last year and broke through for a maiden IGT Challenge Tour title at the Centurion Classic in February. The amateur won again in October, but since Conradie joined the pro ranks in January, the winner’s circle has eluded him.

The 21-year-old has shown some promising form in his last three starts, though.

After taking third in the Centurion Challenge at the end of May, he clocked successive top five finishes in June and was off to a fast start at Services with back-to-back birdies.

“I nearly drove the green at the first and chipped in for birdie at the second after I pushed my third shot over the green,” he said. “Back-to-back birdies was a great way to get the momentum going early in the round and it set me up for a low score.”

Conradie cancelled bogeys at four and six with gains at five and seven to stay two-under. A four at the par-five ninth saw him turn dip three under par and he negated another drop at 10 with a birdie at the par four 12th.

Conradie said the soft drops was the price he paid for taking the weekend off.

“My brother (Estiaan) and I joined the family for a long weekend at Sun City and we didn’t practice at all,” he said. “I struck the ball well and putted well, but my wedge play was inconsistent. I made the birdies at five, seven and nine off some great wedge shots, but dropped four, six and 10 after short-siding myself on the wrong side of the pins.”

Sibling rivalry was rife in the Conradie home when the brothers competed as amateurs, and Estiaan already banked his maiden pro title at the Randpark Firethorn Challenge in May.

“The pressure is definitely on to catch him and I made a promising start,” said Conradie

“I was really pleased that I was able to cancel every bogey to keep the momentum going and that I finished strong. I had to scramble at times, but still shot a good score with an 80 percent game and that’s a positive way to start the tournament.”

The Wanna Be A Champion player will start round two with a two shot lead over multiple IGT Challenge Tour winner Pieter Moolman and three shots ahead of amateur pair Jacques Cloete and Eric Nel.

Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigner Nobuhle Dlamini also made a solid with a two-under-par 70.

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