26th October 2016 | IGT Challenge Tour

Kruse cashes in at Kyalami

KyalamiDay3 (155)(PHOTO – Philip Kruse; credit CJ du Plooy)

Lali Stander

JOHANNESBURG, 26 October 2016 – Pretoria amateur Philip Kruse captured his second IGT Tour title with an impressive show of composure and mental fortitude at Kyalami Country Club on Wednesday.

Kruse earned the nickname Space Cadet at Gauteng North Golf Union as a youngster for his ability to switch off, yet it was this uncanny knack that steered him to a two stroke victory in the Race to Q-School #4 at Kyalami Country Club.

The 20-year-old shared the overnight lead with fellow Silver Lakes golfer Justin Turner, but a major wobble after the turn nearly ruined his chances. The Ebotse Challenge winner showed nerves of a true champion to battle back into contention and provided a grandstand finish when he tapped in for an eagle at the final hole.

“I am so relieved that is over,” sighed the exhausted, but smiling Kruse. “I was battling with back spasms and every shot was pure agony. It was really scrappy, but the birdie at 13 definitely gave me the shot of energy that I needed to get to the finish line.”

Kruse signed for a one-under-par 71 to triumph on eight under 208, while Damian Naicker edged into second with a 70. Kruse’s Wanna Be A Champion stable-mate Kyle McClatchie took third at four under with a 71.

Turner – who also plays out the Wanna Be A Champion Academy at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate – carded a 77 and tied for fourth with Johary Raveloarison from Madagascar, who also returned a 71.

Despite suffering with back spasms in the second round, Kruse produced a 68 to share the lead. He had a long session of physiotherapy after the round, but the crippling pain returned en force on the final day.

“I missed a bunch of fairways on the front nine after a bogey start, but I stayed in the mix with birdies at six and nine, but after the turn, it all went south,” Kruse said.

“I duffed a chip at 10, hit the second chip close and missed the putt for a six. At the next hole, my tee shot ended up against a root and I walked off with a bogey and at the 12th, I had a lip-out for another bogey.

“I thought my tournament was over, but then I made the birdie at 13 and was just a shot off the pace from Justin and Damian Naicker. I realised I could still do it. I just needed to focus on the shots and forget about the pain.”

Turner slipped right out contention with a series of double bogeys and drops, and Naicker completed the last five holes in pars to set the clubhouse target at six under. Kruse boxed another birdie putt at 15 to pull level with Naicker and knew he needed a birdie finish to seal the win.

“I’m a great believer that if you have a run of bad luck, your luck will turn and mine certainly showed up at the last hole,” said Kruse.

“I’d been hitting the ball right all day and I had to make a bunch of crucial saves. This time was no different and the tee shot went right again. Then the ball hit a tree and it finished right to the middle of the fairway. I hit a five-iron stiff and I just had to tap it in for eagle.

“I knew after the birdie at 13 that I had to tune out of everything else that was going on and focus on getting through the next five holes without dropping more shots. I made some good pars coming home and it feels just great.

“It’s overwhelming because it was such a scrappy day but I’m just very happy. I’m very proud with how I fought out there because it wasn’t easy. It’s also never easy to enter the last round leading and I’m happy with how I handled the pressure.”

Kruse has been playing non-stop on South Africa’s amateur circuit and the country’s premier golf development Tour for the past six months.

He will be spending time with Dr Sherylle Calder at EyeGym this week and believes a short break is all he needs to come out firing again. “I’m going to give my back a break, but I still want to get my IGT Tour hat-trick, so I won’t be taking too much time off,” he said.

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