8th November 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Sweet seventh for Conradie at Centurion
(PHOTO – Ruan Conradie; credit CJ du Plooy)
TSHWANE, 8 November 2017 – Pretoria rookie Ruan Conradie picked up his seventh IGT Challenge Tour title with a play-off victory over Toto Thimba Jnr and Conway Kunneke in the fifth Race to Q-School at Centurion Country Club on Wednesday.
On a thrilling final day, the lead changed hands regularly, but it was Conradie, Thimba Jnr and Kunneke who emerged as the joint leaders at 10-under 206 at the end of regulation play.
Conradie sealed his fifth win this season with a birdie at the first extra hole.
The Wingate Park golfer had started the final day in a tie for fifth with Kunneke and the pair was three shots off the 36-hole lead held by Philip Geerts.
Timba Jnr was a further stroke adrift but he racked up birdies at the first, sixth and eighth holes to reach the turn first at eight under. Kunneke matched his score with gains at six and eight and Conradie turned seven under after birdies at one and five, and a bogey at four.
“I also got to eight under with a birdie at 10, but Conway and I got to the 11th tee, we saw there was eight guys on eight under,” said Conradie. “It was incredibly tight.”
Timba Jnr once again edged ahead with a birdie at 12, but he gave the shot back at 13. The Gary Player Class of 2017 player birdied 16 and 18, though, and took the clubhouse lead with a five-under-par 67. Kunneke and Conradie made it a three-way tie at the top with rounds of 68.
“Conway birdied at 12 and 14 and I also birdied 12 and I birdied 15,” said Conradie. “I was hoping for a birdie at 18, but I hit my tee shot in the right bunker, which killed any chance of a birdie.
“We went back to the 18th. It’s the club’s regular ninth and it’s a drivable par four, so I knew if I could stay clear of the bunker, I’d have a chance. I also wanted to have a right-to-left putt, because the left-to-right putt is a proper slider. Toto and Conway both put it in the bunker, but my tee shot came off perfectly and finished about 30 metres below the hole in the fringe.
“Toto and Conway both got it on the green with their trap shots and they both had 20 footers for birdie. Toto was right of the pin and Conway was also below the hole. I lagged my first putt to about five foot. When they both missed, I just had to get the ball in the hole for the win.”
Conradie described his seventh win as the toughest one yet.
“The set-up this week was seriously tough,” said the 22-year-old Wanna Be A Champion golfer.
“We played off the tops and the pins were tucked in impossible places. Your irons and wedges had to be very accurate and if your swing wasn’t on, it was very hard to score.
“After the first nine holes on day two, I knew I needed a good back nine to give myself a chance and I got within three shots, but the final round was pressure-packed. There were so many guys in it and it was even worse in the play-off. I’m really proud of how far I’ve come this year. I stayed really calm and in the moment and I executed the shots in the play-off exactly how I planned them.”
Younger brother Estiaan Conradie won last month and kept the top spot in the Race to Q-School Order of Merit with a tie for fourth, but the victory moved Conradie within R2,000 of his sibling.
“Since he made me pay for dinner last month, it’s his turn and it won’t be cheap,” Conradie quipped.