24th May 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Conradie grinds out pro breakthrough at Randpark
(PHOTO – Estiaan Conradie; credit CJ du Plooy)
RANDPARK, Johannesburg (24 May 2017) – Estiaan Conradie trusted his new swing and it paid off with his first professional win. The 19-year-old Pretoria rookie stepped into the winner’s circle for the first time in 12 months when he beat the Sunshine Tour’s Makhetha Mazibuko by one stroke at the Randpark Firethorn Challenge on Wednesday.
Conradie won three times in quick succession on the IGT Challenge Tour as an amateur early last year, but his nine-under 207 effort over 54 holes at the Firethorn Course at Randpark Golf Club comes 12 months after his last podium finish.
“To be honest, it wasn’t pretty and things didn’t exactly go according to plan, but I just stayed patient, focussed on the course and tried to get the job done,” he said. “It’s been such a hard road back to the winner’s circle and I just want to enjoy this moment for a while.”
The Wingate Park golfer recorded three wins and five top seven finishes on the South Africa’s premier golf development circuit in the first six months of 2016, but the last six was a complete write-off.
“I was in absolute agony every time I swung a club and eventually I was diagnosed with a bulging disc,” he explained. “I worked with Tanya Kearny, a biokineticist at the Wanna Be A Champion Academy at Serengeti, on an exercise regime to strengthen the muscles around the disc and I also had to do swing changes with Dough Wood.
“I knew it was all going to take a lot of patience and sacrifice. It was hard and wondered at times if it was worth it. I started to swing better and with less pain towards the end of January and I had three top 10 finishes, which was really encouraging. So I just stuck with it and standing with a trophy in my hands makes it all worthwhile.”
Conradie began the last day in a three-way tie for the lead at seven under with Clinton Grobler and Kenyan amateur Mohit Mediratta. Fellow rookie Kyle Barker lagged one off the pace and Mazibuko was a further two shots back.
Conradie and Mazibuko both birdied the par five second, but then the big-hitting Free State pro – who was edged out in a play-off for Eye of Africa PGA Championship title earlier this season – went on a tear. Playing two groups ahead of Conradie, he birdied at three and four and two-clubbed the par four sixth to hit the front at nine under.
Conradie sandwiched a bogey between a brace of birdies at seven and nine to get to nine under.
The Sunshine Tour player traded bogeys at 10 and 12 for birdies at 11 and 14 and the Pretoria rookie birdied the two par fives – 12 and 14 – either side of a drop at 13 to edge one shot clear.
“I knew I could have another bad hole, because the last four holes at the Firethorn is one of the toughest closing stretches I’ve ever played and the bogey came at the short hole,” said Conradie.
“The 17th was playing 210 metres and straight into the wind. The green has lots of slopes and the pin was tucked back right. I hit it back left and three-putted. I knew par at 18 would do it, because Makhetha also dropped 17 and parred 18 for a 68.
“I made sure I got the ball in the hole for four, but the highlight of my round was really at 14. I pulled my tee shot into the bushes, punched out and pitched my third about 12 feet from the hole and boxed the putt. That was a critical birdie because it took me clear of Makhetha and Kyle Barker and set me up for the win. I’ve got a lot of belief in my game and that allowed me to focus in the big moments, but taking it to the finish line has given me a huge confidence boost and a sense of relief that I was able to produce under pressure.”
Meanwhile Mazibuko’s 68 earned him second on his own and R500 for the low round honours.
Rising Gauteng amateur Keelan van Wyk fired a 69 to tie for third with Barker and Grobler, who returned respective rounds of 72 and 73.