31st July 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Double eagles sends Du Preez soaring at Waterkloof IGT
(PHOTO – James du Preez; credit CJ du Plooy)
TSHWANE, 31 July 2017 – James du Preez walked off the 18th green at Waterkloof Golf Club on Monday wearing a wide, toothy smile and who could blame him? The lanky Pretoria amateur had just drained a five foot putt for his second eagle in four holes, and the first round lead in the IGT Challenge Tour’s Waterkloof Challenge.
“If anyone offered me a 65 this morning, I would have taken it and bolted,” said the 21-year-old HPC Golf Academy player. “I won’t say that I went out there with no expectation, but I have been out since last year. I definitely didn’t expect to shoot a 65 with two eagles on the card.”
The tallest golfer on the South African Golf Association’s Open Amateur circuit stands 2.06 metres in his socks and the benefit of all that mileage is the distance he achieves off the tee.
“I hit the ball well and had a lot of wedges in,” said Du Preez, who blitzed out of the blocks with a birdie-birdie start. “I wiped out a three-putt bogey at six with a birdie at seven to turn two under and after lip-outs at 11 and 12, I felt that a few more might drop.
“I hit a gap-wedge from 130 metres out to 25 feet at 14 and made the putt for the first eagle and that put me right in the mix. At the 16th, I hit driver five metres short of the green and chipped it stone dead for a birdie. I took driver again at 18 and another gap-wedge in from 130 metres out to five feet and boxed the eagle putt. It was a pretty awesome run.”
Du Preez rose to second on the South African Golf Association Open Amateur ranking in February last year, but once again back injury put him out of the running.
“I haven’t played more than six months of a season since 2011,” said the Pretoria Country Club player, who is starting a long climb back from 130th in the standings.
“I had surgery in 2012, which meant another six months off and that’s been the story year on year. The diagnoses was ankylosing spondylitis. It’s a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine and it’s basically a life sentence.
“It was hard at first to accept this news, but I’ve made peace with it. I’d say it’s much harder on the people around me, like my parents and friends. Currently, I take cortisone four days of the week and I’m permanently on anti-inflammatories, but it could have been so much worse.
“I work with a great team at the HPC, follow a strict gym routine to strengthen my core muscles and I am surrounded by people all trying to find a way for me to manage the condition so I can pursue my goal of playing pro golf.”
When Du Preez got off the bench two weeks ago, he celebrated with a top 10 finish in the Limpopo Open. Now he hopes to be in the mix on the IGT Challenge Tour come Wednesday.
“Considering how long I was out, I was pretty pleased with that tie for ninth at the Limpopo Open,” he said. “For the last couple of months, I’ve been volunteering at Vintage Coffee in Menlo Park. A lot of people know Gavin Groves is a strength and conditioning specialist, but not too many know about his passion for good coffee.
“We discovered Vintage Coffee went coffee shop hopping with Gavin. It’s owned by the Clark family and everyone who works there, volunteer their time. Seeing as I had a lot of time on my hands during my recovery, my started volunteering and I’ve actually graduated to roasting coffee.
“I also worked very closely with the sport psychologist Maretha Claassen. It felt like I hadn’t missed a day when I teed it up at Koro Creek. So, sure, there was an element of excitement to start today’s first round, but I certainly didn’t expect to go that low.
“If I can stay in the mix until the final round, it will be a nice little reunion. Tristen and I played for South Africa in the All-Africa Junior Championship and the Junior World Cup. I played junior IPT with Ruan and I know very Tokkie well, too. A nice little Gauteng North reunion.”