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Michael hits the front as he ‘eyes’ bigger challenges

Northcliff’s Anthony Michael has stepped up his bid to bag another IGT Challenge Tour victory before the start of the Eye of Africa PGA Championship in a fortnight.

The Sunshine Tour campaigner birdied four of his last six holes in the Race to Q-School #13 to race into the 36-hole lead at Ruimsig Country Club on Tuesday.

Although Pretoria amateur pair Philip Kruse and Ruan Korb matched his superb six-under-par 66, no-one could reach the clubhouse target Michael set at 11 under 133 and he slept on a confident two-shot cushion over Dainfern’s Matthew Spacy.

Spacey returned a 67 to edge one stroke clear of Kruse, Korb and last week’s champion, Jaco Prinsloo, who also registered a 67. Ockie Strydom, an 11-time IGT Challenge Tour winner, lurks a further shot back at seven under after posting a 67.

Coming off his best season to date on the Sunshine Tour, Michael protected his top 10 ranking on the Order of Merit with a tie for 27th at the recent BMW SA Open.

But the Randpark golfer has big goals for 2017 and victory in the Race to Q-School series will go a long way to building a confident start for the R1.5-million showpiece at The Eye of Africa Signature Golf Estate.

‘I’m still hunting a maiden win on the Sunshine Tour and that’s a big goal of mine this year,’ said Michael. ‘And I missed the cut in the Eye of Africa PGA Championship last year, so I definitely want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.’

A round that featured four birdies on each loop and a bogey a piece was just what the doctor ordered. ‘I’m striking the ball really well, although the putter hasn’t really warmed up yes,’ he said. ‘I made some great putts, but I left a few short and those are those niggly ones that count when you are chasing a low score to win.

‘I’m definitely going into this season with a lot of confidence, but a win on Wednesday will go a long way in just giving me that extra boost for the Eye of Africa.’

Michael is loving the championship layout at Ruimsig Country Club.

‘It’s a stunning course and it’s hosted some top amateur championships, so it’s great to be playing at a strong course like this early in the season,’ he said. ‘It’s also a really great track for the amateurs and the boys heading to Q-School to build some confidence.

‘The set-up has been fair and Cois (Du Plooy, commissioner IGT Challenge Tour) has played a few holes right from the back and shortened at least one or two every day, like the 13th in the second round, to give the guys a chance to go for it.

‘At the end of the day it doesn’t matter where you put the tees or tuck the pins, you still have to get it in the hole but I think, for the youngsters heading to Q-School in March, a sub-par result at this kind of course will translate into positive confidence.’

And for those struggling to get into red numbers, Michael has this bit of advice.

‘You just have to keep plugging away and trust that you’re on your way there,’ he said. ‘I seriously thought about packing it in after three bad seasons, but don’t give up on yourself. Stick with it, because the hard work does pay off.’

Picture of Michael courtesy of CJ du Plooy

Second Round Scores
133 – Anthony Michael 67 66
135 – Matthew Spacey 68 67
136 – Phillip Kruse AMA 70 66, Jaco Prinsloo 69 67, Ruan Korb AMA 70 66
137 – Ockert Strydom 70 67
139 – Tyrone Ryan 67 72, Bryce Myburgh 69 70, Michael Palmer 73 66, Jacopo Vecchi Fossa (ITA) 70 69
140 – Clinton Grobler 72 68, Eric Nel AMA 73 67, Mark James (ENG) 70 70, Teagan Moore 72 68, Paul de Beer 72 68, Dean O’Riley 71 69, Duane Keun 72 68, NJ Arnoldi 74 66, Philip Geerts AMA (ITA) 69 71, Kyle Barker 71 69, John McClean (NIR) 71 69
141 – Andi Dill 69 72, Dongkwan Kim (KOR) 69 72, Estiaan Conradie 68 73, Conway Kunneke 72 69
142 – CJ Levey 73 69, Ryan Wingrove AMA 72 70, Paul Boshoff 73 69, Craig Ross AMA (SCO) 73 69
143 – Coert Groenewald 72 71
144 – Stephan De Beer 74 70, Brad Harris (ENG) 69 75, Russel Franz 72 72
145 – Justin Turner 73 72, James Ford (ENG) 71 74, Stephen Forsyth AMA 72 73, John Parkinson 73 72, Rhys West 72 73, Neal Herman 73 72, Arno Bartholoma (GER) 74 71
146 – Sam Botham (ENG) 72 74, Billy Greyvenstein AMA 74 72, Christian Basson AMA 71 75, Ruan Botha AMA 78 68, Marcus Smal AMA 72 74, Andrew Carlsson AMA 75 71, Ryan Tipping 73 73, Johary Raveloarison (MDG) 71 75, Gilson Filho (BRA) 74 72
147 – Ruan Conradie 71 76, Terence Boardman 77 70, Shane Irwin AMA (IRE) 75 72
148 – Ruhan Van Dijk AMA 74 74, Darren Gerrard 76 72, WM Coetzee AMA 75 73, Gregg Blainey (ENG) 74 74, Edoardo Torrieri (ITA) 74 74
149 – Michael Kok AMA 77 72, Luke Brown AMA 74 75, Jonathan Waschefort 77 72
150 – Ricardo Towell 76 74, Matt Wollmann (ZIM) 74 76, Owen Grobler 78 72, Divan Marais 73 77, Quintin Crause 74 76

Missed the cut:
151 – Mitchell Lightfoot AMA 76 75, Igor Milicic (SRB) 73 78, Stephan Erasmus AMA 74 77, Dylan Docherty 79 72
152 – Matthew Vogel 79 73
153 – Richard O’Donovan (IRE) 77 76, Richard Tsai AMA 72 81, Duan Nagel AMA 78 75
154 – Herman Steyn AMA 79 75, Frans Strydom 77 77, Craigen Clough AMA 78 76, Gareth Anderson AMA 78 76, Sam Metcalfe AMA 79 75
156 – Christopher Constantinou AMA 78 78, Dwayne Coetzee 75 81
158 – Kenneth Mgodeni AMA 75 83, Dylan Morton AMA 82 76, Cameron Gurr AMA 76 82, Liam Bezuidenhout AMA 77 81
160 – Reinard Vermeulen AMA 84 76
163 – Theodor Oosthuizen 85 78
164 – Divan Van Der Merwe AMA 85 79
165 – Tiago Tyler AMA 80 85
167 – Dean Bakos AMA 91 76
169 – Tshepo Khuzwayo 81 88
181 – Ridwaan Noor Mahomed AMA 90 91
WDN – Eric Park AMA (KOR) 78 WDN


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