11th February 2014 | IGT Challenge Tour
Tree makes a flying start at IGT Series Randpark
Tree maintained a rich vein of form after a top six finish at the South African Stroke Play to reel in six birdies and an eagle at the par-five eighth for a flawless 64 and a three shot stroke advantage over South Africa’s Duane Keun.
Countryman Henry Featherstone, South African professionals Pieter Kruger and Danie Pretorius and top SA amateur Louis Taylor finished a distant five shots adrift.
Tree’s achievement was made more remarkable by the fact that the English Golf Union Elite Squad member engaged the 6,540 meter layout unseen, after gaining a late entry into the event on Sunday.
“I didn’t think a low round like this was on the cards after I teed off at the first,” Tree said. “The course may be short, but it’s very tight. It’s in fantastic nick and the greens run fast and true.”
Tree has been a regular visitor to South African shores for the last four years, and makes the annual trip to compete in the South African Stroke Play, the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship and several other top events on the local amateur circuit.
“The SA Match Play is still nearly two weeks away and I was looking for a way to stay competitive,” the Chichester golfer explained. “I always stay with Haydn (Porteous) when I come out, but he went to East London to qualify for the Africa Open. Haydn played and won on the IGT Tour last year. He and his dad, Dave, suggested I give it the IGT Tour a go.”
Tree took full advantage of the late entry by getting into red numbers with an early birdie at the fourth, followed by a profitable stretch around the turn.
“I holed a 12-footer for birdie at the ninth and hit an average iron to 30 foot into the 10th and holed the birdie putt,” Tree said. “Then I pitched a lob-wedge from 75 meters to about eighth foot and boxed the putt for birdie at 11. The tee shot at the 12th is pretty tricky, so I went with a three-wood at the par-five to give myself a better shot into the green, and hit a rescue-wood to two foot for the eagle putt.”
Tree collected two more birdies on his way home, and found himself the topic of conversation after signing for a stupendous 64 in his IGT Tour debut.
“We don’t have an official course record, because unfortunately we have not had any rounds without placing since the course re-opened after the upgrade and renaming in May 2012,” Randpark Golf Director, Derek Lloyd, explained.
“To our best knowledge, though, Toby’s was the best round under tournament conditions. “It’s quite remarkable considering he played the course blind and without the benefit of the local caddie.”
Keun also enjoyed six birdies and an eagle-three, but a bogey and double bogey diminished his gains.
Kruger and Taylor both got out of the blocks with eagles at the par-five first. IGT regular Kruger added three birdies, offset by a double bogey at the 16th, while Taylor sandwiched a bogey and double-bogey between birdies at the third and fifth, and the 15th and 17th respectively.
“I struggled with the pace of the greens, because I’ve been averaging about seven on the stimp at the courses I played in the last three months,” said Taylor. “It was a pretty good effort, all round, but I royally messed up going for a shot between the trees at 17th, instead of just punching out.
“That’s the key here on the IGT Tour, though, to learn from these mistakes and get the course management under control before we join the paid ranks.”
Pretorius dropped two shots down the home straight, while Van Greunen reeled in four birdies in the first five holes. He picked up two more birdies, but his good work suffered with a trio of bogeys.
England’s Featherstone also had a brace of early bogeys, but was happy coming home with three birdies over a flawless back nine. “It was a better finish and that’s something positive to take into the second round,” said the Manchester golfer.