Pretoria amateur Ruan Conradie called his wire-to-wire victory in the Race to Q-School #5 at Ebotse Links in Benoni on Wednesday ‘a real rite of passage’.
‘I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments, but I’ve never led a tournament from start to finish,’ said the two-time IGT Tour winner. ‘And I’ve never led a tournament going into a final round, either. I feel like I’ve turned a huge corner after pulling this off.’
The 21-year-old from Wingate Park fired rounds of 67 and 68 to start the final round with a five-stroke lead over Tristen Strydom, Englishman Greg Blainey and amateur Andrew Carlsson.
Although he was unable to repeat the pyrotechnics of his first two trips around the links-style layout, Conradie kept ahead of the pack in the blustery conditions.
‘The conditions were tough,’ said the Wanna Be A Champion Academy player after he closed out with a 71 to seal a four-stroke victory on 10 under 206.
‘The wind was already up when we started and it just kept building. By the time we turned, we had a three-club wind to contend with on the back nine. I started with two pars and got a little comfortable, but a three-putt bogey at the third woke me up.
‘I drained a 25-foot putt at the fourth to get back to level and two-putted for birdie at the fifth. At the next par five (seven), I holed another birdie putt and then I just racked up a run of pars until I hit my tee shot in the hazard right on 12. I punched out, but I left my third shot short of the green and didn’t up and down to save par.’
Conradie chipped to tap-in distance at 13 for another birdie, but lost the advantage at the next hole.
‘It was really difficult to judge the wind and this time I hit it in the hazard left,’ he said. ‘I hit a great drive down the fairway at 16 and had 100 metres in, but I hit my wedge 15 metres past the pin and misread the putt for another soft bogey.
‘Those last couple of holes was very frustrating, even with a couple of shots in hand, so it was nice to finish with a solid par at 17 and a birdie at 18. This victory means more to me than my breakthrough win at the Centurion Classic earlier this year.
‘For one, the first one was kind of in my back yard, but this one came at a course I don’t know that well and I had to work for it. I had to cope with the pressure of playing out front and it was a really lesson. My game stood up under the pressure, so I am really pleased with this result.’
Conradie’s younger brother Estiaan is a three-time winner this season on the country’s premier golf development circuit and the champion was happy to close the gap.
‘Estiaan has held the bragging rights for a couple of months, but the gap is down to one and hopefully I win another one soon to shut him up,’ quipped Conradie. ‘He’ll probably say it’s because he didn’t play this week, but time will tell.’
Meanwhile Jonathan Waschefort carded a 69 to take second on six under.
The Pretoria professional shared the low-round-of-the-day honours with former IGT Tour champion Coert Groenewald, Damian Naicker and 14-year-old Benoni amateur Jayden Schaper, who mixed five birdies with a double bogey to finish at 11th at two over 218.
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA.
206 – Ruan Conradie AMA 67 68 71
210 – Jonathan Waschefort 70 71 69
211 – Gregg Blainey (ENG) 70 70 71
213 – Coert Groenewald 77 67 69, Tristen Strydom 71 69 73