12th December 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Poonan pushes to front at Race to Q-School Killarney
(PHOTO – Adriel Poonan; credit CJ du Plooy)
JOHANNESBURG, 12 December 2017 – Pretoria rookie Adriel Poonan spoiled the story line in Monday’s opening round of the 10th event in Race to Q-School Series on the IGT Challenge Tour with some fantastic skills in blustery conditions at Killarney Country Club.
Thick, gnarly rough, tight fairways, slippery greens and a two-club wind made the course as tough as it’s played all season and the par-70 layout looked to be the headline grabber.
The early leaders barely broke 72 until the 22-year old rookie put up seven birdies en route to a three-under-par 67 and the first-day lead.
“I birdied both par fives and I had a really good day with the putter,” said Poonan. “I dropped a few, but otherwise, I hit it close and added them up.”
The math added up to a one stroke lead over IGT Challenge Tour Money List leader Ruan Conradie, Romano Saincic, Clinton Grober and Limpopo amateur Ru-Juan Lessingh and a two-shot bulge over Maritz Wessels, Francois Coetzee, Omar Sandys, Jason Roets and DK Kim from Korea.
Gary Player Class of 2017 and Big Easy Tour winner Musi Nethunzwi heads a group of four at even-par while nine more players are jammed in at one over.
“The course was playing really tough; anytime you hit it in the rough it seemed you have to chip it out sideways,” said Poonan, who strayed too far off the fairway four times.
“I knew it was going to be a long day in the wind and I would have to grind it out, but I was able to birdie the right holes and made some crucial par saves to cruise along.”
Poonan played the front nine in two under, thanks to birdies at six and nine.
“You could only the very top of the flag at six,” he said. “I floated a seven-iron in there and the ball finished way closer than I expected; lying just six foot from the hole. The ninth is a great golf hole, but it played extremely tough in the wind. I went with a five-wood off the tee to make sure I finished in the fairway and hit four-iron in. With the pin tucked back left, I aimed for the middle of the green, but the wind helped to draw the ball close and I was left with a 10-foot downhill putt for birdie.
“You’ve got to keep it in the fairways at all costs. I birdied 11, but I missed the fairways at 10 and 12 to drop back to one under. I managed to birdie 14 and 15. I didn’t want to take on the pin at 14, but the wind helped me and I hit it close. At 15, I hit six-iron into the green and two-putted for birdie.”
Poonan is prepping for next year’s Sunshine Tour qualifying events and he definitely feels more confident about his chances this time around.
“I earned a Big Easy Tour card with a 25th place finish in the Vusi Ngubeni in March and to be honest, it was a good thing that I didn’t get straight on to the tour,” he said. “We are so gungho to turn pro when we finish school, but I realised when I tried to qualify for the Zambia Open that I would have wasted my money. I could hit it as well as the next guy, but I lacked experience at the higher level.
“The 2017 season has been a huge learning curve, taking it to the next step on the Big Easy and the IGT Challenge Tour means. I feel a lot more prepared in March this year and hopefully I can take it to the next level next March.”