Pretoria pair share Big Easy IGT lead at Centurion[Tuesday, April 16, 2019 07:44:59]
Eric Nel and Maritz Wessels share the first round lead in the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour #1 after the Pretoria duo carded matching six under par rounds of 66 at Centurion Country Club on Monday.
Local favourite Nel moved past a group of four bunched at the top of the leaderboard on five under with three birdies on the bounce from the 13th to the 15th holes. He was joined at the summit by Wessels, who reached six under courtesy of two great wedge shots at 14 and 16.
Roberto Lupini, Jason Rossiter and former GolfRSA National Squad stablemates Malcolm Mitchell and Clayton Mansfield are one off the pace in joint third.
Wessels, a former IGT Challenge Tour graduate, enjoyed three competitive seasons on the Sunshine Tour from 2013 to 2015 before he lost his card. He hopes to play his way back onto the main circuit via the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour.
Eric Nel (left) and Maritz Wessels
“This circuit is a mulligan for guys like myself and the youngsters who aren’t quite ready for the bigger leagues yet,” said the 31-year-old Wessels, who coaches at Colban Driving Range in Pretoria.
“Qualifying School is tough and there are no second chances. One bad round and you’re coming back next year. This year I missed by just two shots. At least I got Big Easy IGT status. Sixteen tournaments to finish in the top 10 that gets a direct pass to the Sunshine Tour. I did it in 2014 when I won the Big Easy Order of Merit, so that’s the goal this season.”
The Waverley resident got off to a fast start with a two-putt birdie at the par five first further gains at five, six and eight took him around the turn in four under.
“I played really nicely to start with and I was fairly consistent, but I definitely left a couple out there on the back nine,” said Wessels. “I hit it close at five and eight and holed a 15-footer from the back of the green at six.
“Got it to five under with a birdie at 10, but gave it back at 11 when I couldn’t up-and-down from the greenside bunker. At 14 I wedged it to a foot and at 16, I hit another really good wedge in to 10 feet and boxed the putt.
“I hit my approaches pretty close, which makes life easier, and I holed the short ones. I could have been more under par, which is always a bit frustrating, but you can’t complain at six under.
“I’m not at the top of my game just yet, but it’s early in the season. I’m consistent and I feel I’m playing nicely. I had plenty of looks all day and I feel I can score even better.”
Nel also missed out at Q-School in March and has the same goal as his co-leader.
“I had a nice little run on the back nine where I birdied three in a row,” said the 21-year-old Centurion resident. “I hit it left on 13 and 14, but I got on the green and drained 20 foot putts on both holes for birdie. At 15, I laid up to 100 metres, pitched it to three feet and boxed the putt.
“I didn’t have a great ball striking day, but I scrambled incredibly well. I only hit two fairways all day, but I only missed one green and I putted really well. Hopefully I can find the fairways on Tuesday and post a really low one.”
Thabiso Ngcobo, who finished third overall in the Gary Player School Rankings last season, opened with a four-under-par 68 to sit two strokes off the pace.
The Pretoria golfer shares fourth with SAGDB graduate Keelan van Wyk, fellow Gary Player School member Teboho Sefasta, Quintin Wilsenach and Krugersdorp golfer Ruan de Smidt, who stormed to victory in the 2019/2020 Sunshine Tour Qualifying School last month.
Vusi Nqobeni Qualifying School winner Franklin Manchest and GolfRSA National Squad duo Christiaan Burke and 15-year-old Yurav Premlall finished in a group of 13 players on three-under that round out the top 10, including last week’s IGT Challenge Tour #2 winner Matthew Spacey.
First Round Scores
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated at AMA
66 - Eric Nel, Maritz Wessels
67 - Roberto Lupini, Jason Rossiter, Malcolm Mitchell, Clayton Mansfield
68 - Quintin Wilsnach, Teboho Sefatsa, Thabiso Ngcobo, Keelan van Wyk, Ruan de Smidt
69 - Hendrikus Stoop, Neal Woernhard (SUI), Yurav Premlall AMA, Desne van den Bergh, Michael Pfeifer, Ruhan van Dijk, Marthin Scheepers, Zabastian de Jager, Thanda Mavundla, Franklin Manchest, Christiaan Burke AMA, Coert Groenewald, Matthew Spacey
70 - Michael-James Steyn, Ruan Botha, Maverick Faber (FRA), Christof Appel, Jason Smith, Allister de Kock, Jacques Kruyswijk, Byron van der Merwe, Reinhardt Blaauw, Bryce Myburgh, Tristan Topka, Makhetha Mazibuko, Dylan Naidoo, Thato Mazibuko
71 - Clinton Grobler, Christian Basson, Matt Bright, John McClean (NIR), Theunis Bezuidenhout, Kenneth Dube, Stuart Smith (BOT), Peetie van der Merwe, Caylum Boon, Jason Viljoen, Jason Roets, Tyron Taylor AMA, Ryan Tipping, Evance Vukeya, Alpheus Kelapile, Gareth Sargent, Neal Herman
72 - Gerrit Foster, Matthew Hands, Nicholaus Frade, Andrew Carlsson, Sipho Bujela, Jason Froneman, Liam Labuschagne, Phumlani Maluka, Gary Daoust (BEL), Altaaf Bux
73 - Marco de Beer, Gerhard Pepler, Gideon van der Vyver, Divan Marais, Jonathan Waschefort, Leon Vorster, Nico du Buisson, Jeff Inglis (ENG), Omar Sandys, Paul Rodrigues, Teddy Mathebula, Mitchell Lightfoot, Jaco van der Merwe, Hayden Griffiths
74 - Cody Holwill AMA, Pequestro Dyssel, Nicholas Souranis AMA, Michael Kok, DK Kim (KOR), Thabang Simon, Luke Brown, Armand van Dyk AMA
75 - Carlo Heunis, Paul Boshoff, Keaton Slatter, Stephan Erasmus, Andrew Burmester, Richard Joubert, Adam Baker, Ryan Joyce AMA, Jack Rex Duthie, Ruan Groenewald, Jason Diab
76 - Tumelo Molloyi, Xander Prinsloo AMA, Jacquin Hess, Romano Saincic, Andi Dill, Deon Bredenkamp, Leon Visser, Alex Pienaar AMA, Cameron Esau, Dwayne Basson
77 - Duan Nagel, Gerard Du Plooy, Dylan O'Leary, Jabulane Mabilane, Luan Boshoff, Wayne Stroebel, Henning du Plooy
78 - Arno Pretorius, Albert Venter, Nhlalenhle Dlamini
79 - Paulo Serrao (POR), Albert Visser, Ricardo Towell, Hanlo Jacobs
80 - CJ Levey, Cody White (CAN), Fritz Orren
81 - Quintin Crause, Nqobani Ndabambi (ZIM)
82 - Lwazi Gqira, Marnus Barnard AMA
83 - Louis Botha
84 - Karl Lehmacher
90 - Richard Spagnolo AMA