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Conradie’s comeback seals Wingate Challenge win

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Pretoria rookie Ruan Conradie fired a superb six-under-par 66 in extremely windy conditions to win the Wingate Challenge in a superb come-from-behind performance on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old sealed his third professional tittle of the season on eight-under 208, edging out overnight leader Jade Buitendag by one shot at Wingate Park Country Club.

Much of the focus had been on the big-hitting Buitendag from Border, who headed into the final round with a five-shot cushion. The current Money List leader was well under the radar, trailing by nine shots, but consecutive birdies at the start of the round provided the push that steered Conradie to his fifth victory on the country’s premier golf development circuit.

‘My brother and I discussed this huge lead that Jade was starting with before the final round,’ said Conradie. ‘Estiaan was seven off the pace and I was nine behind. Given the windy conditions, we both thought it would take a miracle to beat Jade.

‘I reminded my brother that he came from seven behind to win last year, so it could be done. But I didn’t honestly believe I would do it. Not until I started birdie-birdie. That’s when I thought I might have a chance.

‘My eagle putt at the second just shaved the hole, but I got the birdie, and gaining two shots so early in the round put me in a positive frame of mind. I had a soft bogey at seven, but overall, I played the front nine solid and I found some great rhythm on the back nine.’

The Wanna Be A Champion Academy player moved into the mix with a birdie at 11 as the leading players faltered, and an eagle at the par five 13th pushed Conradie into the lead.

‘I missed a short birdie putt at the 12th, but then I chipped in from 30 metres out for the eagle at the 12th. Jade dropped two shots at the ninth and he had another double bogey at 13, so suddenly I had my nose in front.’

He cemented his lead with brace of birdies at 14 and 15 and successive pars over the closing holes.

‘I made a great par-save at 17 to stay in the lead,’ Conradie said. ‘I pulled my tee shot and I had no shot. The only option was to chip out of the trees back to the fairway. I had 70 metres left to the pin. I hit my third shot to 15 feet and holed the putt for a great four.

‘The 18th is a monster, especially in the wind. I hit a good drive down the middle and laid up, rather than risk going for the green in two. I took eight-iron for my second from 180 metres, chipped it close, but my birdie putt just slipped past. Jade birdied the last hole, so I’d say my tactic paid off.’

The win also marked Conradie’s second success at Wingate Park in as many months.

‘I’ve won three times now since I turned pro, but I’d have to say this one was the most special,’ said the delighted champion. ‘This was probably the best round of golf I’ve ever played in such harsh conditions. The wind was fierce, it was very cold and the greens were rock hard. I’ve never had great results at Wingate Park, although it’s my home course, but after winning here twice now, I guess we can say the course and I are starting to bond.’

Final Results
All competitors SA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA
208 – Ruan Conradie 71 71 66
209 – Jade Buitendag 66 67 76
210 – Pieter Moolman 68 70 72
213 – Dean O’Riley 69 71 73
214 – Juan Langeveld 73 67 74
215 – Eric Nel AMA 68 73 74
216 – Estiaan Conradie 73 68 75, Ruan Korb 66 74 76
217 – Teagan Moore 69 70 78
220 – Jonathan Waschefort 70 73 77
222 – Luke Brown AMA 74 73 75, Clinton Grobler 74 76 72, Maritz Wessels 74 73 75
224 – Jadrick Fourie AMA 76 73 75, Shaun van Tonder 75 75 74, Divan van der Merwe AMA 80 77 67
225 – Andrew Carlsson AMA 71 76 78, Reynhard Reynecke AMA 71 75 79, Richard Joubert AMA 75 75 75, Joubert van Eeden 76 75 74
227 – Michael Dreyer 72 76 79, Bennie van der Merwe 73 76 78, Patrick Thompson 73 76 78, JP Cooper AMA 72 74 81
228 – Eric Park (KOR) 72 75 81, Leon Visser AMA 70 81 77, Thabi Ngcobo 78 74 76, Tertius van den Berg 74 80 74
229 – Chase Paton AMA 72 77 80, Owen Grobler 73 71 85, David Mofokeng (LSO) 76 78 75, Marais Visagie 76 79 74
230 – Teboho Sefatsa 73 75 82, Christiaan Pretorius 76 77 77, Peetie van der Merwe AMA 70 85 75
231 – Divan Marais 72 73 86
232 – Arno Pretorius AMA 71 78 83
233 – Helary Jules AMA 76 79 78, Stephan du Toit AMA 79 76 78
234 – Lydon Charnley AMA 76 74 84, Gareth Anderson AMA 78 76 80
236 – NJ van der Walt AMA 77 79 80, Danie Pretorius 83 74 79
245 – Leon Vorster AMA 74 82 89


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