1st February 2016 | IGT Challenge Tour

De Decker drives to Centurion Open lead

CenturionDay1 (121)(PHOTO – Andre de Decker; credit CJ du Plooy)

TSHWANE, 1 February 2016 – Westlake professional Andre de Decker boxed two eagle putts on his way to a blistering seven-under-par 65 to edge clear of a clutch of fellow Sunshine Tour rookies in the first round of the IGT Tour’s Centurion Open on Monday.

With the European Tour co-sanctioned Tshwane Open qualifier just a week away, the rookies were out in full force at Centurion Country Club, but it was De Decker who finished at the top of the pile after loops of 33 and 32.

The former top ranked amateur campaigned on the Golden State Tour in the United States last year and narrowly missed out on sealing a card for the 2016 Web.com Tour.

“So I decided to come home and play the Sunshine Tour before heading back to the States later this year,” said De Decker, who claimed the third card on offer at Q-School in December.

“I lost out in a play-off at the qualifier for the BMW SA Open and unfortunately I fell ill with Salmonella poisoning before the Joburg Open qualifier, so things haven’t really gone to plan.

“That’s why I am competing on the IGT Tour this week. I really need to take my A-game to the qualifier next week so I can get into the last co-sanctioned event and get a foot on the ladder.”

The 25-year-old Capetonian offset bogeys an early bogey at 11 and another drop at 16 with an eagle at the par five 15th and a hat-trick of birdies at 12, 14 and 17.

He erased a lone bogey on the back nine with three more gains before signing off in style with an eagle at the par five ninth.

“I made a weak bogey at 11, but I knew there were plenty of scoring holes to catch up shots, so the drop didn’t bother me too much,” he said.

“At 14 I had a 20-footer just slip past the edge for eagle, but I made the putt for birdie and got my eagle at next hole. At 16, I misjudged the wind and ended up in water off the tee. I nearly holed out at 17 and had a nice short putt inside a foot for birdie.

“I turned three under and played the back nine aggressive, but without taking unnecessary risks. The tap in eagle was at nine was unexpected, but it was a great bonus at the end of the round, because it gave me the one shot advantage.

“It’s really nice to have the chance to play the IGT Tour, because it is a good opportunity to see where your game is at and what you need to polish. I still felt as if I left a ton of birdies out there, but it’s a nice solid start to the week.”

De Decker leads by one from 2015 IGT Tour graduate Armandt Scholtz and he finished two shots clear of Daniel Hammond and three-time Sunshine Tour champion Louis de Jager, who made a welcome return to the winner’s circle in last week’s Killarney Open.

Yet another Sunshine Tour rookie Teaghan Gauche tied at four under with amateur Sean Bradley and 2015 IGT Tour winners Juan Swart and Dean O’Riley, while Michael Palmer – a four-time winner on the country’s premier development Tour last year – grabbed a seat on the bus at two under.

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