By Lali Stander
Pretoria amateur Philip Kruse savoured the outcome of a memorable week in Benoni after he pieced together a final round one-under-par 71 to claim a maiden breakthrough in the IGT Tour’s Ebotse Challenge on Wednesday.
The 20-year-old Silver Lakes golfer loves nothing more than to be tested and, on a stormy day at Ebotse Golf and Country Estate, the amateur did not let the brutal wind get in the way of his title charge.
Kruse thwarted Carrie Park’s bid to become the first female winner on the unisex Tour when he edged her out to claim a one stroke victory at one under 215.
‘I am over the moon, because the conditions were really rough, but I hung in there, especially on the back nine to fight my way to victory,’ said Kruse. ‘We had to fight the wind on a really tight course, so any mistake was punished. I dropped a couple of shots, but I was able to respond with birdies to keep myself in the title fight.
‘I’ve been working on a lot of swing changes with my coach Doug Wood in the last two months. Last week I told Doug that the new swing is starting to feel really comfortable and this week it just felt like a winning swing. It’s a great result for both of us, confirming that we are on the right track.’
He began the final round two shots behind Park and one off the pace from first round leader Duane Keun. When Park squandered her overnight lead with a bogey-bogey start, both contenders pounced.
Kruse moved into contention with a trio of birdies from the fifth, while Keun also fired three successive birdies before the turn to start the back nine at two-under with a one shot lead.
His title hunt folded after double bogeys at 11, 14 and 15, though, and Park took a one shot lead after she offset a bogey at 12 with a birdie at 13.
When Park double-bogeyed 14, Kruse moved into pole position and kept the lead with a bogey-birdie combination at 14 and 15.
‘I parred the 16th and hit a good tee shot at 17, but I hit my second right of the green,’ Kruse said. ‘I hit a pretty good chip, but it got caught in the grain and stopped almost as soon as it hit the green. I didn’t make the par putt, so I headed to the last hole at even par.
‘I was 60 metres short of the green and getting ready to play my third shot when I found out that I had a one shot lead. I knew I had to make that shot count and I caught my sand-wedge perfect and parked the ball two feet from the hole.’
The fifth amateur champion on the country’s premier development Tour this season said that being in contention in earlier events this season prepared him well.
‘I felt very calm for most of the round, but I’ve learned to deal with that pressure here on the IGT Tour and I was able to shut the nerves down,’ he said. ‘I was really calm over the last putt, but I have to admit, I felt really relieved when it disappeared down the hole.
‘I’ve been knocking for a long while and it’s great to get that first win under the belt, because you do start to wonder if it’s ever going to happen. Now that I’ve got the trophy, I’m keen to get another one as soon as possible, because nothing builds your confidence like hoisting a trophy.’
Park signed off with a 74 to secure her second runner-up finish this season, while former IGT Tour winner Terence Boardman closed with a 69 to finish in third on 218.
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA:
215 – Phillip Kruse AMA 73 71 71
216 – Carrie Park 75 67 74
218 – Terence Boardman 76 73 69
219 – Dean O’Riley 74 71 74