5th May 2014 | IGT Challenge Tour
Mental victory gives Akers share of Race to USA lead
TSHWANE, 5 May 2014 – Unheralded amateur Gareth Ackers reeled in a string of three birdies on his way to a flawless six-under-par 66 and a share the first round lead with Englishman Mike Downs at the first IGT Race to the USA event at Irene Country Club on Monday.
The 22-year-old CMR golfer credited his share of pole to a mental victory, rather than a great scoring round.
“A week ago I shot a 92 in the Western Province Amateur Stroke Play,” Akers said. “I was absolutely gutted and I spend a lot of time reflecting on the round and all the things that made up that cricket score. I wasn’t playing badly, but mentally I was all over the place.
“Today I managed to block out all negative thoughts. I just focussed on each shot with a positive attitude, even when I was in a bad spot. I guess that I finally get it when people say that at this level, it’s all a mental game.”
Akers made birdies at the 10th, 13th and 18th, while Downs knocked in birdie putts at the first, fourth, ninth, 10th, 12th and 18th to also navigate the 7,085-meter layout in flawless style.
The pair hold a one shot edge over Dainfern amateur David Meyers and Ted Hendriks and finished two clear of Korea’s Hyun Park and yet another amateur contestant, Neil Meyer from Middelburg.
Akers has been competing on the country’s premier golf development Tour for several years, but this is the first time he has the field in his rear-view mirror.
“It’s a great feeling to be leading the tournament with Mike,” he said. “I’ve never been in this position before, but I am so much calmer than I expected.”
The young gun began working with a new coach, Paul Cunningham, about a year ago and he credits Cunningham with his new attitude.
“We worked on my swing and my mental game, which was really not strong. It has taken a lot of time and hard work, but I finally feel like I’m turning a corner,” Akers said.
“I took some time off recently to work on my game and I just felt really good coming into the tournament, especially after the disaster at the WP Stroke Play. Paul has been giving me great guidance on the mental aspects during competition, and today I felt like I got it just right.
“We are all hitting it well and we are all capable of shooting low scores, but it boils down to how we handle it out there on the course. Tomorrow I might not be as strong, mentally, but I understand that it’s a process and I’m willing to do the work.”
Akers was not surprised by the great number of amateurs that teed it up in the first IGT Race to the USA event.
“We were 80 players in the starting line-up, and I think just over half the field are still amateurs,” he said.
“The two IGT Race to the USA’s will draw a lot of interest because everyone wants to end up playing in America and this is a great way to get there.”
Each IGT Race to the USA series will consist of seven events, with the best five results counting towards the Order of Merit that will determine the players who qualify to compete on the eGolf Professional Tour in the USA.
“Who wouldn’t compete for that kind of a prize,” said Akers. “A chance to make the field for the Reno-Tahoe Open and the Wyndham Championship and playing against the Americans for a month is a dream come true for all of us.”
FIRST ROUND SCORES
66 – Mike Downes ENG, Gareth Akers (AMA)
67 – David Meyers (AMA), Ted Hendriks
68 – Niel Meyer (AMA), Hyun Park KOR
70 – Wayne du Toit
71 – Johan Theron, Carlos Arroyo (AMA), Slade Fick (AMA), Arno Pretorius (AMA)
72 – Michael Scholz, Hano van der Walt, JC van Dommelen, Herman Minnie, Alex Botha (AMA), Antonio Rosado POR, Zander Lombard (AMA), Stephan De Beer (AMA)
73 – Rhoan Gardiner, Russel Franz (AMA), Leon Scheepers (AMA), Coert Groenewald, Nico Luther, Hennie Du Plessis (AMA)
74 – Ruwan Combrink, Christiaan Pretorius, Jerry Steyn, Francesca Cuturi, Romano Saincic, Conway Kunneke, Ruan Botha, David Rebelo (AMA), Alwyn Vorster
75 – Byron Garvie, Calvin Caldeira (AMA), Rob Menzies ENG, Rae Mackie, Matthew Adams (AMA), Lucas Steyn, Morne Wolmarans (AMA)
76 – Keegan Steyn (AMA), Anton Steenkamp (AMA), Tudor Bismark (AMA), Albert Visser (AMA), Ryan Wingrove (AMA)
77 – Julian de Wet (AMA), Christian Kayumba-Mbanga ZIM, Pierre Viviers, Hayden Millar (AMA), Cameron Nesmith (AMA), Christopher McGuire (AMA)
78 – Andrew Lamont (AMA), Stephan Erasmus (AMA), Werner Ferreira (AMA), Wesley Baptiste (AMA), Kevin Eden (AMA)
79 – Michael Van Hoeck (AMA), Arno Bartholoma (AMA), Fouche Botha (AMA)
80 – Matthew Kiewitz (AMA), Shaun van Tonder, Johan Smit (AMA)
82 – David Lamprecht, Michael Armstrong (AMA), Lydon Charnely (AMA)
84 – Ruan van Blerk NAM, JP Schmidt (AMA)
85 – Werner Lourens (AMA), Stefan Malan
86 – Etzard Grimbeek (AMA)
92 – James Garlinge (AMA)
93 – Benjamin Cobbett (AMA)
97 – James Benzien
WDN – Thomas Lovett