By Lali Stander
Andre de Decker battled a frosty putter and a spirited charge from Hennie du Plessis, but the West Lake golfer prevailed to claim a wire-to-wire victory in the IGT Tour’s Centurion Open on Wednesday.
De Decker hit the front with an opening seven under 65 and protected his overnight lead with a second 65 to carry a four shot lead into the final round at Centurion Country Club.
But, when his putter turned ice cold, the 25-year-old Sunshine Tour rookie left himself with a lot of work to do to celebrate a maiden breakthrough on the country’s premier development Tour.
“The short stick served me really well over the first two rounds, but today it was like putting with a hockey stick,” said De Decker after he closed with a frustrating 73 to triumph on 13 under 203.
His putter served up 14 birdies and two eagles over the first two days, but the Western Province native collected just two gains in the final round to offset three bogeys.
“When we got to the 18th, Hennie had to hole a one foot putt to force a play-off, but the putt lipped out,” De Decker said.
“I was relieved that I got the job done, but the result could easily have gone Hennie’s way. It was frustrating, because I struck the ball as well as I did in the first two rounds and I chipped really well, too. I just couldn’t get the putter going; couldn’t convert my chances.”
De Decker found a way to tough it out despite the balky putter.
”I was one over at the turn and made a birdie at the first to get back to level,” he said.
“I made two great up-and-downs from the trenches at two and three to save par, but I got too aggressive at the fifth hole and dropped another shot. I felt that I had to make at least two birdies over the last three holes to win.
“At seven, I was dead against the lip of the bunker and did well take save par, but I missed both birdie chances at eight and nine.”
With the Tshwane Open qualifier looming, De Decker intends to spend some quality time with his putter over the next few days.
“I’ve been putting really well the last six months, so this was really out of the ordinary,” he said.
“The rest of my game is very sharp, especially my irons and chipping. I just need to figure out what went wrong, but I’m ready for Tuesday. I really enjoyed playing with Hennie. He is a great competitor and he was a solid game. It be something if we both made the qualifier and could go head-to-head over the first two rounds of the Tshwane Open.”
Limpopo’s Du Plessis signed off with a 70, while fellow GFG Academy player JC Ritchie with a 68 to take third on 205.
SECOND ROUND SCORES
203 – Andre De Decker 65 65 73
204 – Hennie Du Plessis 71 63 70
205 – JC Ritchie 72 65 68
206 – Damian Naicker 73 67 66, Teaghan Gauche 68 70 68, Tyrone Mordt 71 66 69
207 – Jake Roos 71 71 65, Daniel Hammond 67 69 71, Louis De Jager 67 68 72
209 – Oliver Bekker 71 68 70, Pieter Moolman 71 68 70