9th March 2016 | IGT Challenge Tour

Van Tonder seals stunning comeback

HoughtonDay3 (284)(PHOTO – Danie van Tonder; credit CJ du Plooy)

JOHANNESBURG, 9 March 2016 – Actions speak louder than words, but Danie van Tonder screamed “Daantjie is back” with a nine shot victory in the IGT Tour’s Houghton Open on Wednesday.

The three-time Sunshine Tour champion ended a 19-month title drought with rounds of 65, 64 and 65 to celebrate a wire-to-wire victory on 22-under-par 194.

American Zachary Portemont eagled the 15 and finished birdie-birdie for a 66 to take sole second, while a 66 in the final round lifted former European Tour winner Anton Haig to third on 206.

Van Tonder dominated the country’s premier development Tour with 10 victories in 2011 and not surprisingly, led the Sunshine Tour’s 2012 Rookie of the Year standings at the end of his first season.

Much was expected of the country’s former number one ranked amateur and he didn’t disappoint.

In 2014, he reeled in three titles and was narrowly beaten in the Order of Merit race by Thomas Aiken at the season-finale SA Open.

But after starting the 2015 season with a superb tie for third in the Dimension Data Pro-Am, his game took a nose dive and Van Tonder slipped off the radar.

After a final round 61 at the GMC Doubles last week, Van Tonder hinted at a comeback and the Benoni professional was understandably pleased to get the job done at Houghton.

“I turn 25 on Saturday, but now we have a reason to start the celebrations early,” he said.

“Besides, I have to be fighting fit for my flight to Kenya on Sunday. I am champing at the bit to kick butt in my first Challenge Tour start at the Kenya Open next week.”

Van Tonder said he knew he was coming out of the slump after finishing the GMC Doubles on 20 under.

“I set myself a target to break the 200 mark at Houghton Golf Club and I can’t even describe how good it feels,” the GFG Academy player said.

“I think the biggest mistake players make when they hit a slump is to start tinkering with their swing, or their putting stroke or such. It’s a fact that every pro goes through a bad patch every so often, so why would you change something that worked for you just because you’ve struck a bad patch?

“I never changed my swing; I just rode it out and lived with the frustration, because I knew it would end at some point. But it’s a relief to get it over and done with.”

As to the reason for his unexpected decline, Van Tonder has a theory.

“My runner-up finish in the Order of Merit got me into two World Golf Championships (Cadillac Championship and the HSBC Champions) and some other international events, but I definitely wasn’t prepared to deal with all the travelling, the red tape and that stuff,” he said.

“We always think the top players in the world are whining when they complain about all the travel, but I really understand what they mean. When you have to combat jet-lag and deal with all that stuff off the course, it takes it out of you.

“It’s that next step and it takes time to get used to it. It definitely took its toll on me, but this time around, I know the pitfalls and I know what to expect. I’m really excited about the rest of the season.”

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