2nd September 2013 | IGT Challenge Tour


JIGTTrophyOHANNESBURG, 2 September 2013 – Iliska Verwey was thrilled to finish within striking distance of the joint leaders in the first round of the IGT Challenge Pro Tour’s first Race to Q-School at State Mines on Monday.

The 25-year-old Centurion golfer carded an opening one-under-par 71 to tie for fifth with professional JC van Dommelen and amateur Andi Dill. The trio are one shot off the pace from professionals JC Ritchie, Gideon Pienaar, Sarel van der Walt and Robbie Lupine.

No less than 13 players are tied for eighth on par, including some familiar faces like Shaun Smith from Southern Cape, Herman Minnie from Gauteng North and Tyrone Ryan.

Former Sanlam SA Amateur champion Verwey is competing the 12-event Race to Q-School in preparation for her second shot at gaining a Ladies European Tour card in December.

“Q-School is absolutely gruelling and I was totally unprepared last year,” she said. “I’ve been playing the IGT Tour this year and the Race to Q-School is the final step to getting mentally fit and really competitive ahead of Tour School.

“Playing against the men really gets my competitive juices going. I keep my focus better and, even when my game is not in top form, I push myself to score. Mental preparation is so important. That’s what you will need to cope at Tour School. I think the biggest lesson the IGT Tour has taught me to fight back, no matter how I’m playing, and to eliminate the mistakes.”

Verwey’s progress showed as she overturned an opening bogey with a birdie at the third and erased back-to-back bogeys at the fifth and sixth with successive birdies at the next to holes. After a solid drive at the ninth, she holed a gap-wedge for eagle at the par-four to turn in two under.

“I played really solid golf, but I struggled with the putter throughout. I had two three-putts for bogey on the front nine and two more on the back nine. But the good thing was that I managed to overturn those dropped shots to come in under par.”

Ritchie, too, had to overcome a rocky start to grab a share of a four-way lead.

The 19-year-old Irene golfer dropped shots at the first and fourth, but stemmed the bleeding with birdies at the eighth and 10th. Richie surged into the lead with a trio of birdies at the 11th, 13th and 14th, but a wayward drive at the par-five 15th forced him to return to the tee and the resulting bogey cost him the sole lead.

“It’s one of those things and you just have to accept it and move on,” he said. “I thought I hit a pretty good drive, but we couldn’t find my ball and I had to reload. But I’m still among the front runners with two rounds to go, so I just have to look forward.”

Richie has played all but two of the IGT Challenge Pro Tour events this season and claimed a Winter Challenge event at the same venue just three weeks ago. With a R100,000 sponsorship on offer for the IGT Tour player who finishes the highest at the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School next January, the Gauteng North golfer is looking for consistency and strong performances in the Race to Q-School.

“The Race to Q-School is the probably the best way to prepare for the Sunshine Tour Q-School,” he said. “The standard is high and the guys are hungry to score well and be ready and with the added incentive the stakes are huge. To know that your expenses are covered is a huge motivation.”

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