3rd October 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour

Giant-killer Nel into Zwartkop Match Play semis

(PHOTO – Eric Nel; credit CJ du Plooy)

TSHWANE, 3 October 2017 – Eric Nel put the brakes on Ockert Strydom’s pursuit of a record 13th IGT Challenge Tour title when he downed the Kempton Park pro at the first extra hole in the quarter-finals of the Zwartkop Match Play on Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Centurion amateur ousted Western Province amateur Dan Copeman 2-up in the second round and beat fellow Gauteng North Jacques Rossouw 4 & 3 to reach the final eight.

“When I realised I was playing Ockie in the quarter-finals, I felt some fear,” admitted Nel. “I think anyone would have a moment facing the guy who holds the IGT Challenge Tour record for victories, but once we got going, I was in game mode.”

Nel scored first blood with a birdie at the second, but Strydom won fifth and sixth holes.

“I won seven and eight in birdies to take back the lead, and turned 1-up,” Nel said. “Ockie won 11 and 13, but I won 12 so we stayed all-square until he won the 15th with a birdie.

“I knocked in a 16-footer for eagle at 16 to halve the hole, birdied 17 to halve and drained a 10-footer for eagle at 18 to win the hole and force the match into extra time. I hit my tee shot down the middle at the first, but Ockie’s drive finished just off the fairway on the right.

“His second shot hit a tree and he finished about 30 metres short of the green. I pulled my second and also finished 30 metres short, but to the right of the green. I chipped it to three feet, though, and he just made it on the green and had about 12 feet left for birdie. When his putt missed, I just had to get it in the hole for the win.”

Nel will face Thriston Lawrence in the first semi-final.

The former Sanlam SA Amateur champion has been at his blistering best. Lawrence routed Blue Valley golfer Tristan Webel 7 & 5 in round two, mowed down Wingate Park amateur JP Cooper 5 & 4 in the third round and edged out amateur Leon Visser 2 & 1 in the quarter-finals.

“If Ockie was scary, Thriston is your worst nightmare,” Nel said.

“You have to respect a guy who won the SA Amateur title twice. He never gives up, so I expect a tough match. But that’s what I love about match play. It takes a completely different approach to stroke play. You don’t get do-overs, so you have to be on your game all the time. Should be a great contest. I’ve really enjoyed this tournament. It’s a great break from all the stroke play and nice to have something different before we start the Race to Q-School.”

In the other semi-final, IGT Challenge Tour stalwart Pieter Moolman goes head-to-head with former Sunshine Tour winner Brandon Pieters.

Moolman knocked out Pretoria amateur Chris van der Merwe at the first extra hole, but eliminated his Gauteng North SA Inter-Provincial team-mate David Opperman 3 & 2 in round three. He knocked out Sunshine Tour campaigner Hennie du Plessis 2 & 1 to reach the final four.

Pieters beat Ruimsig amateur Herman Anderson 2-up and was 5-up on Bryce Myburgh through the first six holes before he routed Myburgh 7 & 5 in round two. He had a much tougher time getting rid of Sunshine Tour player Breyten Meyer, but eventually beat the IGT Challenge Tour graduate 1-up.

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