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Pickering soars to five-stroke victory

Pickering

Virginia Tech sophomore Slade Pickering glided to a maiden victory on the IGT Challenge Tour on the wings of a pair of eagles on Wednesday.

It proved to be a fascinating final round in the season’s seventh event at Kyalami Country Club.

Silver Lakes amateur Keegan Mclachlan appeared in control, but Pickering made his move with his first eagle at the par-five 9th to draw level.

The 19-year-old overhauled the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation player with a stunning back nine and sank a decisive six-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a final round eight-under-par 64 to win by five strokes on 14 under.

Pickering and Mclachlan trailed overnight leader Muzi Nethunzwi by two shots at the start of the final round. The Soweto golfer ran into trouble with bogeys at the 3rd, 6th and 7th, leaving the way clear for Mclachlan to take control after birdies at the 2nd and 4th.

Pickering made three pars to start before he collected his first birdie at the par-five 4th.

‘I had a bit of a nervy start,’ said Pickering. ‘I told myself I needed to get something going when I got to the 9th tee. I split the fairway and had 240 metres left to the pin. The flag was in the front, so I wanted to hit a 4-iron short and use the slope to run it up on to the green. I hit the shot to perfection. The ball finished pin-high left and I boxed the 10-foot putt for eagle.’

Mclachlan made successive birdies at the 8th and 9th to tie Pickering on nine under.

Both players had birdies at the 12th, but Pickering pulled one shot clear with his third gain at the 13th. Mclachlan drew level with a birdie at 13th, but the Pecanwood golfer was standing over another eagle putt.

‘I hit perfect drive down the middle and my approach finished 15 foot from the hole,’ he said.

‘I made the putt to pull two shots clear. I hit my tee shot right into the trees at 15th, and I had to start a 9-iron 20 feet left of the green with a huge cut. I hit it to 12 foot and holed the birdie putt, while Keegan made a double-bogey.’

‘I got a bit complacent with a five-shot lead,’ he said. ‘I lost focus at 17th and ended up two-putting for bogey. I made up for it with a good drive down 18th. I laid up just short of the green with a 2-iron from 240 metres, chipped it to five foot and made the birdie putt.

‘It’s a long summer break and I wanted to have some form when I head back to Virginia in the middle of August. So I started playing the IGT Challenge Tour at end of May to get competitive and I’ve had a lot of fun in the last three weeks.’

Pickering tied for 14th in his first start at Benoni Lake and tied for ninth in the Big Easy IGT Challenge at Randpark in early June.

‘Things started to happen and I started getting more and more confident,’ he said. ‘I got the putter going today and I only missed two greens, so the rest of the game clicked. I’m really pleased with the breakthrough and hopefully I can make it two before I head back to the United States.’

Mclachlan carded 69 to finish alone in second on 202, with Peetie van der Merwe a further stroke back after a final round 72. Keelan Africa, Cameron Moralee and Pretoria amateur Stals Swart rounded out the top five on six under.

Nethunzwi, who closed with a 76 to tie for ninth on four under, was philosophical about the final round.

‘I’ve been really pleased with the progress I’ve made, especially after the Gary Player School of 2018 Boot Camp, but that’s what it is: a work-in-progress,’ he said. ‘I saw some things that need more attention in the final round, but to lead the field for two rounds was great because it’s a step in the right direction and that’s the positive I’m taking away from this week.’

Final Result
All competitors SA unless otherwise specified; amateurs indicated as AMA
202 – Slade Pickering AMA 69 69 64
207 – Keegan Mclachlan AMA 69 69 69
209 – Peetie van der Merwe 69 68 72
210 – Cameron Moralee 72 68 70, Stals Swart AMA 69 71 70, Keelan Africa 71 68 71
211 – Otto van Buynder AMA 68 74 69, Eric Wowor AMA 71 71 69
212 – Hayden Griffiths 74 69 69, John McClean (NIR) 72 68 72, Muzi Nethunzwi 65 71 76
213 – Ruan Korb 75 68 70, Kyle Barker 72 70 71
214 – Dongkwan Kim (KOR) 71 71 72
215 – Caylum Boon AMA 70 74 71, Michiel Bothma 78 65 72, Heinrich Bruiners 78 69 68, Paul Rodrigues AMA 71 70 74
216 – Stuart Smith (BOT) 73 72 71, Ricardo Towell 73 69 74, Derick Petersen 75 74 67
217 – Breyten Meyer 71 73 73, Jason Diab 70 72 75, Allister de Kock 73 69 75
218 – Dwayne Basson 71 73 74, Stefan Wears-Taylor 73 73 72, Thabang Simon 69 73 76
220 – Marthin Scheepers 71 75 74, Neil Cheetham (ENG) 73 77 70
221 – Evance Vukeya 75 70 76, Leon Vorster 77 69 75, Ivanna Samu 74 74 73
222 – David Rebelo 76 74 72
223 – Gianni Pera AMA 77 71 75, Chandler Shaw AMA 69 73 81, Omar Sandys 73 78 72
224 – Albert Visser 72 75 77, Liam Labuschagne AMA 77 70 77, Maverick Faber AMA (FRA) 77 71 76, Ruhan van Dijk 73 76 75
225 – Lejan Lewthwaite 72 72 81, Stephan Erasmus 74 76 75
226 – Christopher van der Merwe AMA 79 71 76, Andrew Plint AMA 75 76 75
227 – Liam Clinton AMA 77 74 76
228 – Jancarel Rossouw AMA 75 74 79, Rock Tlhabanyane 76 74 78, Andrew Carlsson 72 79 77
229 – Kai Li AMA 77 73 79
230 – Nicklas van Wyk AMA 76 75 79
232 – Mitchell Lightfoot AMA 73 76 83
WDN – Keaton Slatter 74 75 WDN

Photo: Pickering and his victory trophy, by CJ du Plooy


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