17th May 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Lupini on cloud nine with Pecanwood win
(PHOTO – Roberto Lupini; credit CJ du Plooy)
PECANWOOD, 17 May 2017 – Roberto Lupini took a huge step towards reviving his professional golf career when he cruised to a five-shot victory in the IGT Challenge Tour’s Pecanwood Challenge on Wednesday.
After battling a shoulder injury for nearly two years, the former Sunshine Tour campaigner finally went under the knife in September last year.
Lupine got the all-clear in February and the 34-year-old started practicing for a planned return on the country’s premier golf development circuit this May, but never in his wildest dreams did Lupini imagine that he would go wire-to-wire in his first start back on tour.
“I came into the week with no expectations, so I’m simply stunned,” said Lupini, who fired two rounds of 65 and closed with a 71 to finish at 15-under-par 201 at Pecanwood Golf and Country Estate.
“Coming back after so many months, I had no idea where my game would be. To come away with a trophy is awesome. It’s a dream start to the journey back to the Sunshine Tour.”
He began the final round with five shots in hand, but cut his lead to three with a bogey-bogey start.
“I hit a really poor tee shot at the first and left myself 210 metres to the green,” he said. “I parked it in the bunker and couldn’t up-and-down to save par.
“At the second, I pulled my tee shot left and had to punch out. I finished 20 metres short of the green and again, failed to up-and-down. Starting with two drops didn’t upset me much, though. They were soft drops, nothing catastrophic and I had plenty holes left to turn the tide. When I chipped it to a foot at the fifth and boxed the putt for birdie, I knew everything was good with the world again.”
Lupine hit a good drive down the par five seventh, and fired a four-iron from 220 metres straight at the pin to set up a two-putt birdie. Pars at eight and nine took him to the turn at 15 under.
“I made fours at 10 and 12, so I managed to birdie all four par fives,” Lupine said. “At 14 I hit a great three wood off the tee, and left myself a sand-wedge to the green. I hit it to 12 feet and holed it for another birdie.
“Unfortunately I hit my second shot at 15 fat and landed up in the greenside bunker. Didn’t up-and-down to save par and bogeyed 16 as well with a three-putt after hitting eight-iron pretty close. It was a little frustrating to drop two shots so late in the day, but it wasn’t a train smash.
“I finished with two good pars for the win and that’s what matters. The first round set me up nicely for the week and shooting 65 in the second round gave me great momentum for the last round. It’s great to get off to a fast start like this, especially after all the hard work I’ve put in to get ready.
“I wanted to put myself in contention, and I did. Hopefully this is just the start; I’d love to take home some more of these awesome trophies.”
Theunie Bezuidenhout also closed with 71 to share second at 10 under with Wynand Dingle, who took the low rounds honours with a 69, while Beyers Smith shot 70 and Ruan Korb carded 74 to tie for fourth at 210.