26th April 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Haig the hero at Killarney Challenge
(PHOTO – Anton Haig; credit CJ du Plooy)
JOHANNESBURG, 26 April 2017 – After nearly eight months on the bench following hip and knee surgery, Anton Haig bounced back in spectacular style when he went wire-to-wire in the Killarney Challenge on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old Dainfern Country Club golfer was quick to point out, though, that his fourth IGT Challenge Tour victory took way more work than he bargained for.
“That was probably the hardest win of my career,” said Haig, who triumphed by three shots on four-under 206 over Pretoria amateur Arno Pretorius.
“After I made a really a strong start to the last round, but then the nerves set in and things unraveled badly on the back nine. I hung tough, though, and I it done.”
Haig took pole position at Killarney Country Club with a five-under-par 65 in the first round.
He was just a slender shot clear of Pretorius at the start of the final round after shooting 72 in round two, but he raced six strokes clear of the chasing pack with an eagle at the par-five fifth, birdies at two, three, six and eight and lone bogey at the par-three fourth.
“I was seven shots ahead after a bogey at 10, but then the wheels came off,” said Haig.
“I shanked my tee shot and dropped two shots at 12 and bogeyed 13 after another bad tee shot. I got one in the hole for birdie at 14, but bogeyed the par five straight after. I felt the pressure and I got nervous and I just couldn’t get it going on the back nine. I knew starting my first event would be hard after such a long lay-off, but it was tougher than I imagined. It was all I could do to cling to that lead down the home stretch, but hanging tough over the closing holes was good for the confidence.”
Although Pretorius closed the gap with birdies at 11 and 14, Haig’s three stroke lead held firm as the Pretoria Country Club amateur also played the last three holes in par.
“Everyone knows winning is a good habit to have,” Haig said after signing for 69. “It gives you a lot of confidence and at the moment I need that confidence.
“Pulling it through brings a lot of confidence to my game. Hopefully it will show up next week in the first Big Easy Tour event, but I’ll keep my expectations on the low side. If the game shows up, great; if it doesn’t, we move on.
“You’re only as strong as the team around you. My lovely Lauren (Cowley), for her love and support, my coach Doug Wood and the team at Wanna Be A Champion who got me back to this point and Investec, Dimension Data and Stuart Conway, who threw their support behind me and keeps me motivated to keep grinding my way back to the top.
“It felt really good to get out there again and compete. Despite the nerves and the hiccups on the back nine, I’m so pleased to see a good result after all the hard work of the last few months.”
Pretorius closed with 71 to take second on 209, Duane Keun signed off with 70 for third place at 210 and Martin Wessels finished in fourth on 211 after a final round 73.
Sunshine Ladies Tour pro Ivanna Samu had another solid day at Killarney to round of the top five alongside Warrick Druian, Eric Nel, Simon Kruger and Pieter Moolman at 213.