31st May 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Eagles see Turner to the top in Waterkloof Challenge
(PHOTO – Justin Turner; credit Lee Roux)
TSHWANE, 31 May 2017 – Justin Turner soared on eagles’ wings as he fired a sublime 11-under-par 61 in blustery conditions to celebrate a maiden IGT Challenge Tour victory in the Waterkloof Challenge on Wednesday.
The Silver Lakes golfer triumphed on an aggregate score of 18-under-par 198 and finished four strokes clear of Jason Roets.
In an enthralling final round, Turner made up a three shot overnight deficit as he raced through the pack with half-a-dozen birdies and a hat-trick of eagles at three of the four par fives.
Surprisingly, his lone bogey at the par five seventh.
“I hit a great tee shot at seven and the ball ran through the fairway between the bunkers, but when we got to the spot, we couldn’t find the ball and I had to reload,” explained the Western Province native. “I actually made a pretty good four with my second tee shot.
“I never expected to be in contention this week, let alone win. I just hoped to get the rust off and get competitive again. I was booked off for seven weeks and I wasn’t allowed outside after I picked an eye infection during the qualifier for the Zimbabwe Open in April.
“I hit balls and played a few holes to loosen last week. I shot 69 in the first round and 68 on day two and I really couldn’t fault my game, but to shoot 61 after seven weeks off is just mad. I always make my fair share of eagles, but to shoot 61 in really tough conditions was unreal. The wind was pumping, they put us off the back tips on most of the holes and some pins were really wicked, so I am super stoked with this round.”
Turner parked a lob-wedge eight feet from the hole and made the birdie putt at the first to set the tone for his day.
“The second is a dog-leg left par five,” said Turner. “I always aim left to take advantage of the small gap between the trees, but this time I hit it way left and ended up behind a clump of trees. I had 210 metres to the pin and I hammered a five-iron through the gap.
“I think it was the best golf shot of my life. The ball finished three feet from the hole and I tapped it in for eagle. I boxed a six-footer to save par at the third and hit an incredible bunker shot to give for a birdie at four. That birdie kept the momentum going until I had another nice run around the turn.”
Turner hit his approach at the ninth to 20 feet and holed the birdie putt and added more red numbers with birdies at 10, 11 and 12 and made all the putts. A good drive and a six-iron into 14 from 180 metres to two foot set up eagle number two, but the last eagle at 18 was more advantageous.
“I hit two great bunker shots at 16 and 17 to save par and keep the momentum going and I walked to 18 knowing Jason was just two behind,” Turner said. “I knew I needed a birdie finish to win, at the very least, so I hammered my tee shot down the middle of the fairway.
“Fortunately it ran between the bunkers, but unfortunately it ran through the fairway and ended behind a big tree. My caddie said take a wedge and punch it out, but I wanted to win this thing. I had 165 left to the pin, so I pulled out the six-iron.
“I hooded the face and hit a low hook and we watched the ball run up to the green. I walked up and drained the 20 footer for eagle. And it felt great. Somewhere since turning pro I got way too technical and it took over my game. I wouldn’t have attempted a shot like the one at 18 two years ago when I was still playing the Sunshine Tour.
“Since I joined GFG Academy, Graeme (Francis) has mainly focussed on getting me to let go of the technical stuff and just play on feel again. I haven’t felt this good on a golf course since my amateur days. Back then I was playing a lot of freer and I won a lot of titles playing that way. It feels incredibly good to get the monkey off my back. I just wish I could bottle this game for the Big Easy Tour over the next three weeks.”
Roets, meanwhile, signed off with a 67 to finish four shots ahead of third-placed Ruan Conradie from Pretoria, who closed with a 71.