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Groenewald grabs maiden IGT Challenge Tour win

Groenewald

Ruan Groenewald from Nelspruit has held off late charges from amateurs Aneurin Gounden and Gerhard Pepler to claim a maiden pro win in the IGT Challenge Tour #10 at Irene Country Club.

The White River golfer entered the final day a shot behind Pepler and fellow Mpumalanga rookie Peetie van der Merwe and showed real guts over the last three holes to sign for 69 and a one-shot victory on 10-under 206.

Groenewald hit the front after he birdied both par fives around the turn and moved three shots clear of the chasing pack with his fifth birdie at the par-three 13th.

‘I was 11 under and then disaster struck,’ explained the 19-year-old. ‘I leaked my driver right and found my ball up against a tree. I had no shot, so I just did my best to get it back in the fairway. I had about 100 metres flag and hit a sand-wedge, but it came out too hot. I was right at the back of the green and I three-putted from about 50 feet.’

Gounden went on a hot streak, racking up a brace of birdies on the 14th and 15th to get to eight under and Pepler was also two shots adrift after a bogey at the 14th.

‘It was a scary moment, but I started seeing sports psychologist Maretha Claassen and the work we’ve done in just four sessions really paid off,’ said Groenewald. ‘I was able to regroup really quickly and put myself back in a positive mind-frame. I just kept my head down and got on with it.’

Gounden, playing three groups ahead, birdied the par-five 17th and the closing par four for a five-under 67 to set the clubhouse target at nine under.

‘I made a huge par-save at 16th from 45 foot that gave me a nice boost of confidence, but I nearly ran into trouble at the 17th. I drove it into the left hazard, but I found my ball and chipped out with a lob-wedge to get back in the fairway.

‘I had 200 metres flag and I gave it everything with a 7-iron and hit it to give. After I holed the birdie putt, and Gerhard also made a birdie, I had a one-shot lead. I was really calm playing the last hole, and just went for the safe shots. There was no reason to get fancy with one shot in hand.’

Groenewald split the fairway, hit sand-wedge in 106 metres and two-putted for the win.

The victory moved Groenewald to 12th on the IGT Money Leaders in only his sixth start. ‘It feels really great,’ he said. ‘This first win I will remember for the rest of my life. It was a little bit stressful at the end, but my positive thoughts kept me in the fight and took me to the finish line.

‘I’m grateful to the Mpumalanga Golf Union and our president Graeme Morrison for giving me a great foundation and a lot of opportunities. Also my coach Edwin Compton, for his support. This first win is for my parents, for their love and for backing me every step of my golf career.

‘When I made the move to the pro ranks three months ago, I felt ready to take my game to the next level but you tend to second guess yourself when things don’t go well. Maretha has helped me to put things into perspective. I kept a really good attitude going, even when things were going wrong, and played with confidence. I know now that I made the right decision for my career.’

Pepler’s birdie putt also found the bottom of the cup at the 18th.

He closed with a one-under 71 to tie for second with Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation member Gounden, who started the day four shots off the lead. For both players, the joint runner-up finish marked a season-best result.

Final Result
All competitors SA unless otherwise specified; amateurs indicated as AMA
206 – Ruan Groenewald 69 68 69
207 – Aneurin Gounden AMA 67 73 67, Gerhard Pepler AMA 70 66 71
210 – Clinton Grobler 69 72 69
211 – Stefan Wears-Taylor 74 64 73
212 – Arno Pretorius 71 68 73, Peetie van der Merwe 67 69 76
213 – Thabiso Ngcobo 69 71 73
214 – Ruan Korb 71 75 68
215 – Andrew Carlsson 70 74 71, Dylan Kok 74 68 73, Caylum Boon AMA 74 67 74
216 – Liam Cloete AMA 76 68 72, Conway Kunneke 72 73 71, Clifford Thompson AMA 70 73 73, Bradley Diggeden AMA 73 69 74
217 – Marco de Beer 70 71 76
218 – Nicholas Souranis AMA 73 71 74, Michael-James Steyn 74 69 75, Neville Mitchell AMA 75 73 70, Matthew Rossouw AMA 77 64 77
219 – Leon Vorster 70 73 76, Richard Joubert 72 74 73, Cameron Moralee 74 69 76, Juran Dreyer 72 74 73, Lejan Lewthwaite 72 75 72, Quintin Crause 73 75 71
220 – Hanish Nagrani (ZIM) 73 72 75, Francesca Cuturi 73 73 74
221 – Patric Dowling AMA 71 74 76, Jonathan Waschefort 76 70 75
222 – Gareth Sargent AMA 72 74 76, Liam Labuschagne AMA 75 72 75, Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ) 74 75 73
223 – Mitchell Lightfoot AMA 75 69 79, Romano Saincic 74 75 74
224 – Zander Gous AMA 71 76 77, Zethu Myeki AMA 77 71 76, Aidan Boon AMA 71 77 76
225 – Ruhan van Dijk 72 76 77, Leon Visser 74 74 77, Bryce Myburgh 72 76 77
226 – Matthew Hands AMA 77 70 79, Keanu Pestana AMA 75 73 78
227 – Steven le Roux AMA 71 78 78
228 – Henning du Plooy AMA 77 71 80
230 – Leon van der Walt AMA 75 73 82
231 – Dylan Morton AMA 78 71 82
235 – Divan de Villiers 76 72 87
WDN – Kyle Barker 70 71 WDN
RTD – Hendrikus Stoop 70 73 RTD, John McClean (NIR) 74 67 RTD

Photo: Victorious Groenewald with his winner’s trophy, by CJ du Plooy


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