A spectacular eagle from a perfect trap-shot saw Estiaan Conradie soar into the lead at the conclusion of the first round in the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour #6 on Monday.
The defining moment of Conradie’s round came on the 18th hole at Centurion Country Club and empowered the Pretoria golfer to set the first round target at six-under-par 66.
He will start the second round with a one-shot advantage over Pretoria amateur Christopher van der Merwe and Matt Bright, the winner of last week’s event at Killarney.
The 20-year-old rookie from Wingate Park rookie graduated from the IGT Challenge Tour at the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School in March. Food poisoning followed by a bout of flu derailed the start of his season, but Conradie showed off the game that won him the IGT Challenge Tour Race to Q-School rankings at Sun City last month.
He earned his first pay cheque with a top 10 finish in the Sun City Challenge and followed up with a top eight in the fifth Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour at Killarney.
‘It’s been a frustrating start to the season, especially because I was so eager after Q-School,’ said Conradie. ‘First came the food poisoning and it really weakened my system. I picked up flu during the Zimbabwe Open and I battled to lift a club. I couldn’t shake it and it really impacted on my game.
‘But we had a break and I rested and I was back to full strength when we headed to Sun City. It was such a relief to put three decent rounds together and to celebrate my first payday. Now I just want to try and make up for lost time.’
The Wanna Be A Champion Academy golfer cancelled a bogey start with birdies at the 12th and 15th and the two at the par-four 18th took him to the back nine on three under.
‘I hit my tee shot left into the fairway bunker and duffed the bunker shot,’ said Conradie. ‘Didn’t up-and-down for par, but I got it back to level with a good chip and putt at the 12th. I hit a solid drive down the 15th fairway and hit my second over the green, but I made another good up-and-down for birdie.
‘At the 18th, I hit 3-wood off the tee and it drifted a little right into the bunker. I was about 15 metres out and I holed the trap shot. That got me to three under and I made three more birdies coming home. I two-putted for birdie at the 1st, hit an 8-iron to give at the 3rd and found another greenside bunker at the 7th.
‘Made that up-and-down for birdie, too. Lots of bunkers, but I’m striking the ball well and my short-game is on song again. It feels like I’m finding my stride again and it’s really nice to be in the mix, because it’s been a while.’
Van der Merwe returned a flawless 67, while Bright reversed two bogeys to grab a share of second on five under.
Gary Player School of 2017 member Heinrich Bruiners opened with a 68 to finish in the bus at four under alongside Jason Roets, Neil Herman, Stefan Wears-Taylor, Matthew Spacey and Sunshine Tour Q-School winner Thriston Lawrence.
First Round Scores
All competitors SA unless otherwise specified; amateurs indicated as AMA
66 – Estiaan Conradie
67 – Matt Bright, Christopher van der Merwe AMA
68 – Jason Roets, Heinrich Bruiners, Thriston Lawrence, Neal Herman, Stefan Wears-Taylor, Matthew Spacey
69 – Jonathan Waschefort, David Rebelo, Quintin Crause, Stals Swart AMA, Neil Cheetham (ENG), Dylan Mostert
70 – Dylan Kok, Ruan Korb, Matthew Rushton, Ryan Tipping, Makhetha Mazibuko, Stuart Smith (BOT), Jason Diab
71 – Hayden Griffiths, Louis Albertse, Sean Bradley, Gianni Pera AMA, Conway Kunneke, Peetie van der Merwe, Divan Gerber
72 – Kyle Barker, Hendrikus Stoop, Jade Buitendag, Matthew Rossouw AMA, Thabiso Ngcobo, Coert Groenewald
73 – Theunis Bezuidenhout, Anton Haig, Dwayne Basson, Dongkwan Kim (KOR), Daniel Hammond, David McIntyre, CJ du Plessis, Jason Rossiter, Dayne Moore (ZAM), Wayne Stroebel, Drikus van der Walt
74 – Bryce Myburgh, Romano Saincic, Eric Nel, Andrew Carlsson, Michiel Bothma, Arno Pretorius, Luke Brown, Roberto Lupini, Derick Petersen, Basil Wright, Teboho Sefatsa, Caylum Boon AMA, Arthur Horne (SWZ), Jabulane Mabilane
75 – Armand van Dyk AMA, Keaton Slatter, Maritz Wessels, Albert Visser, Neville Mitchell AMA, Duane Keun, Jason Viljoen, Pieter Moolman, Irvin Mazibuko, Phumlani Maluka
76 – Ricardo Towell, Ruan Groenewald, Adam Baker, Dylan Docherty, Michael Dreyer, Neezy Thubisi
77 – Leon Visser, Michael-James Steyn, John McClean (NIR), Jason Smith, Nicklas van Wyk AMA, Marco de Beer, Nico du Buisson
78 – Andrew Plint AMA, Shalan Govender, Allister de Kock, Otto van Buynder AMA, Thabang Simon, Tumelo Molloyi
79 – Jeff Inglis (ENG), Marthin Scheepers, Yubin Jung, Jaco van der Merwe AMA, Gary Daoust (BEL)
80 – Juran Dreyer, Adriel Poonan
81 – Christiaan Pretorius, Michael Kok
82 – Keelan Africa, Tertius van den Berg, Alwyn Smith
83 – Stephan Erasmus, Chase Paton AMA
84 – Warric Dyers, Chandler Shaw AMA
85 – Jesse Jacobs AMA, Paulo Serrao (POR)
DSQ – CJ Levey
Photo: Conradie in Centurion action, by CJ du Plooy