6th February 2018 | IGT Challenge Tour

Van den Berg joins two-way tie at State Mines

Lali Stander

BRAKPAN, 6 February 2018 – Tokkie van den Berg boosted his Race to Q-School campaign with a stunning eight-under-par 64 in the second round lead in the 15th event in the IGT Challenge Tour qualifying school prep-series on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old Pretoria golfer fired nine birdies over the testing layout at State Mines and, despite a three-putt bogey from 25 feet at the par three 14th, set the early target at 11-under 133.

Van der Berg had to make space at the top for overnight leader Ben Follett-Smith, though. Errant tee shots put a premium on the Zimbabwean’s short-game, but he scrambled brilliantly and needed just 27 putts for a 70.

The pair will carry a one shot advantage into the final round over Bryce Myburgh, who shot 66, and Lesotho’s David Mofokeng, who returned a 68 for a share of third. Peetie van der Merwe, who signed for 71, is a further shot back.

On a day when the weather was kind to Van den Berg and his fellow morning starters, he took advantage in clinical fashion.

Although he left himself short on a few occasions, the Pretoria Country Club player hit 16 greens in regulation. He got off to a fast start with a birdie at the 10th and racked in further gains at 12, 14, 15 and 18, maintaining the momentum with five more birdies down the back nine for loops of 32.

“I am over the moon with this round,” he said. “If you’d have offered me seven under at the start of the day, I would have ripped your hand off. It’s always a bit disappointing when you play so well, but just one bogey leaves me really happy.

“I got a little bit lucky out there at 14, where I hit my tee shot deep into the trees. I punched out and chipped it close and boxed the birdie putt. The putter was working well; it was just solid golf, so same again tomorrow please.”

Van den Berg currently sits in eighth position in the IGT Challenge Tour Race to Q-School Order of Merit. With three events left, a win this week would keep him in the top 10 and guarantee a start in the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School in March.

The HPC TuksGolf Academy player is trying not to get carried away too early, but conceded that watching Follett-Smith fire a 64 in the opening round spurred him on.

“I’m trying not to be too excited about the prospect of making the top 10, but I’ve been doing the maths in my head and I think I’m going to need three top five finishes to guarantee my top 10 spot,” he said. “When I saw Ben shot 64, I decided to get a more aggressive. I knew I needed a low number of a 69 in the first round, and you’re not going to do it by playing safe.

“The greens were absolutely perfect this morning and there wasn’t a drop of wind until we reached the last couple of holes, so I kept attacking. A top three finish this week would definitely go a long way in getting me back on the Sunshine Tour.”

Van der Berg graduated the country’s premier golf development Tour in 2014, but lost his Sunshine Tour card after his rookie season.

“I was really devastated, and I packed my clubs away for almost 18 months,” he said. “Then an opportunity arose for me to start playing again. I came back to the IGT Challenge Tour and started from scratch. But I feel good about my game and my head is in a much better space. If I get my card again, I know I can make a better go of it this time around.”

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