Coert Groenewald stole the march on the rest of the joint overnight leaders to edge into the sole lead on day two of the Race to QSchool #7 with a three-under-par 69 at Wingate Park Country Club on Tuesday.
At nine under 135, the six-time IGT Tour champion leads by two from Terence Boardman and GFG Academy duo Russel Franz and CJ du Plessis tied for second. Groenewald is three clear of Damian Naicker and Botswana’s Stuart Smith.
Boardman and Franz both carded 68s, while Du Plessis returned a 69. Naicker, who shared in the four-way tie after round one, carded an even-par 72 and Smith signed for a 68.
However, joint first-round pacesetters Maritz Wessels and Jeff Hopkins from Ireland both fell out of contention. Maritz slipped to joint 10th with a 75 and Hopkins registered a 76 to finish in a tie for 16th.
Groenewald managed to find some rhythm on the back nine to launch a strong finish after a poor start to the second round.
‘I shanked my second shots at the first two holes, which is really not the way you want to start the round,’ said the 28-year-old Roodepoort golfer. ‘Luckily the second hole is a par five and I got away with a birdie, but the poor start stuck in my head for a bit.
‘I dropped the fourth, birdied six, three-putted eight for a bogey and made a huge par save at nine after finding the water. It was just as if everything was out of sorts on the front nine and the wind didn’t help, but I got going properly after the turn and made four solid pars.
‘Unfortunately I misjudged the wind and overshot the green at the short hole (14), but I made up for it with a great eagle at 15. I hit driver straight down the middle, a good hybrid two into the green and holed a 20-footer for three to regain the momentum.
‘At 16, I parked it six feet from the hole and boxed the birdie putt and made a good par at 17. At 18, I overshot the green again but made a very good up-and-down for birdie. It was tough to judge the wind out there, because it swirled something fierce. Club selection was really interesting but the course is so pristine that when you got it right, you reaped the rewards.’
Groenewald turned pro on the IGT Tour in 2012 and campaigned on the country’s premier development circuit until he earned his card for the 2015 Sunshine Tour season.
‘Unfortunately I didn’t keep my card and I’m definitely taking another stab at it next year,’ he said. ‘I learned so much from my rookie season and hopefully all that experience plus the Race to Q-School will help me get there when we go back to Q-School next March.’
Groenewald currently ranks eighth in the IGT Tour’s Race to Q-School Order of Merit and with only 11 events left in the series, he is keen to improve his position this week.
‘Only the top five automatically qualify for the Final Stage, and I definitely want to be in that group,’ he said. ‘Q-School is the toughest week of the season, so it would take a lot of pressure off if I can skip First Stage altogether. It’s such a great incentive to play for.’
(RSA unless otherwise indicated)
135 – Coert Groenewald 66 69
137 – Terence Boardman 69 68, CJ du Plessis 68 69, Russel Franz 69 68
138 – Damian Naicker 66 72, Stuart Smith (BOT) 70 68
139 – Matthew Spacey 70 69