14th February 2018 | IGT Challenge Tour

Geerts claims maiden IGT title at Killarney

(PHOTO – Philip Geerts with CEO Killarney Neilen Tolmay; credit CJ du Plooy)

Lali Stander

JOHANNESBURG, 14 February 2018 – Italian Philip Geerts claimed a maiden IGT Challenge Tour victory in the 15th Race to Q-School on a thrilling final day, during which Roberto Lupini, Kyle Lucas and amateur Ruhan van Dijk all made charges towards the title.

He with a two-under-par 70 to triumph on eight-under-par 202 and finished three shots clear of the chasing trio at Killarney Country Club on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old Geerts was one shot behind Lucas at the start of the final round and slipped even further back with bogeys and three and five.

Gains at nine and 11 got him back on a winning course and he re-joined the title-hungry pack with a birdie at 13. He quickly erased a bogey at 14 when he took advantage of the par five 15th and the birdie proved pivotal as Lupine and Van Dijk bogeyed the next hole.

Lupini recovered with a birdie at 17 to get back to six-under, which left Geerts with a one shot lead playing the last.

“I knew I needed to make a birdie at the last to avoid a play-off, so played two textbook shots,” he said. “I had 104 metres to the pin after a good tee shot and I put it so close, I could walk in the putt.” As it turned out. Lupini and Van Dijk both dropped at 18 and the pair slipped back to join Lucas in a tie for second on five under.

Geerts made a strong start to the 18-event Race to Q-School series with a tie for second at Ruimsig in October. He took his hot form to the Mena Tour, where he tied for 10th in the Sahara Kuwait Championship on the Mena Tour later the same month.

Coming back to South Africa after the festive break, the Paco di Roma golfer had been trending towards a breakthrough on the country’s premier golf development circuit with a recent spate of top 10 finishes.

“I’ve definitely felt it had to happen,” said Geerts. “I’ve been knocking for a while now, but if you put yourself in contention week on week, you improve your chances. You just have to stay patient, because the pay-off has to come.

“My ball-striking wasn’t the best in the last round and I struggled a little at the start of the round, but once I get my rhythm going, I knew it would be good. I hit some fantastic short irons and wedges in to give myself opportunities to score. I’ve been working really hard on my putting especially Robbie Stewart, too.

“The putt at 15 was a good one, but it was really the one at 11 that gave my round momentum. I was in the trees and I hit a 7-iron from 60 feet out to the front edge and holed the putt. A good putt must go in and that birdie really brought me back into the fight.”

The victory moved Geerts to third on the Race to Q-School Order of Merit.

With two events left, he is within striking distance of the Conradie brothers. Estiaan leads the standings with R35 355 and brother Ruan is just over a R1 000 behind.

Geerts needs around R8 000 to overtake the brothers for the top spot. Top three finishes at the Els Club Copperleaf next week and Randpark at the end of February could get him there, but for now he is just satisfied that he guaranteed himself a top 10 finish.

“It will be hard for anyone to push me out of the top 10,” he said. “To win the Race to Q-School would be a bonus, but I’ve almost guaranteed myself a start in the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour Q-School in March and that’s been the goal throughout the Race to Q-School Series.”

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