Kyle Barker stumbled twice on the front nine, but the Randpark rookie looked impregnable on the back nine at Waterkloof Country Club as he kicked clear of the field in the second round of the IGT Tour’s Race to QSchool #2 on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old burst from the blocks with an eagle at the par-four first and fenced a bogey at the third with birdies at two and four. He reeled in four more birdies on the back nine after dropping his second shot of the day just before the turn.
A six under 66 moved Barker into the top spot at 11 under 133 and he will start the final round two shots clear of Roodepoort golfer Coert Groenewald, who heads up the chasing pack.
The former Sunshine Tour player returned a 69 to finish one stroke ahead of pair of winners this season. Zwartkop Match Play champion Damian Naicker sizzled with a 65 that saw him bank R500 for the low round of the day, while Kyalami Challenge winner Kyle McClatchie fired a flawless 67 that featured an eagle at the second and three birdies on the back nine.
Going out in front means coping under pressure, a tough but necessary evil for any hopeful contender eager to snap up a card for the Sunshine Tour at Qualifying School.
Barker got his first taste of playing in a pressure cooker after he fired a brilliant 65 to co-lead the second round of the Wingate Challenge in June, but he let himself down with a 77 in the final round and slipped to fourth.
Last week, the Central Gauteng rookie hit the front in his pro debut at the IGT Tour’s Race to Q-School #1 at ERMP Golf Club. This time he backed himself with rounds of 72 and 70 to seize the runner-up spot and that is the experience Barker will draw on when he leads the field into the final 18 at Waterkloof on Wednesday.
‘When people told me that I didn’t know what pressure was when I was still in the amateur ranks, I didn’t take them seriously,’ Barker said.
‘After a couple of months out here on the IGT Tour, I really get what they meant. It’s a very different kind of pressure when you lead with a bunch of Sunshine Tour pros on your tail. Every mistake is amplified, and you don’t get second chances.
‘Learning to be in contention and to win is a process; you improve every time you tee it up, but only if you learn from the experience. You have to learn to cope with the pressure, to keep your focus and stay in the moment. That instant you get ahead of yourself, you’ve lost the battle.
‘Last week I played hole-for-hole, shot-for-shot; I didn’t look at the leaderboard or what the other guys were doing. It paid off and that’s the same approach I’m taking into the final round tomorrow.’
First round pacesetter Carrie Park returned a 73 to join last week’s winner Dean O’Riley in joint sixth, while Sunshine Ladies Tour champion Bertine Strauss closed the gap on the leading group with a second round 68. The LPGA Tour campaigner finished in a five-way tie for 15th on three under.
By Lali Stander
SECOND ROUND SCORES
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA:
133 – Kyle Barker 67 66
135 – Coert Groenewald 66 69
136 – Damian Naicker 71 65, Kyle McClatchie AMA 69 67
137 – Altaaf Bux 69 68
138 – Dean O’Riley 71 67, Carrie Park 65 73