Pretoria amateur Ruan Conradie stepped up his bid for an IGT Tour double when he extended his overnight lead in the Race to QSchool #5 at Ebotse Links on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old from Wingate Park lost a two-shot advantage with bogeys at the first and seventh, but he turned the tide with a birdie at the short eighth. He banked a further five birdies on the back nine to open up a five-stroke lead on nine-under-par 135 with a four-under 68.
Tristen Strydom carded a 69 to grab a share of second on four under with Englishman Greg Blainey and amateur Andrew Carlsson. Blainey returned a 70 and Carlsson picked up an eagle at the par-five seventh for a 71.
Conradie picked up his second birdie immediately after the turn and added gains at 13, 15, 16 and 18 to pull clear of the field.
‘I had a soft three-putt bogey at the first and caught a couple of bad breaks on the front nine, but I played solidly,’ Conradie said. ‘At the fourth my ball pitched on the green and spun off the back, but I was able to up-and-down to save par. At seven, I wanted to clear the mounds in the fairway, but the ball pitched on the last mound and shot left into the hazard.
‘I drained a 15-foot downhill slider at the eighth for birdie and that kickstarted the momentum going into the back nine. I made very few mistakes on the front nine, but I put myself in even better positions on the back nine and sunk a couple of birdie putts.’
In February, Conradie wiped out a five-shot deficit in the Centurion Classic to catch David Ashley and beat the Englishman in a sudden-death playoff for his maiden breakthrough on the country’s premier golf development circuit.
‘Anyone in the pack could do the same to me in the final round,’ Conradie said.
‘I’ve never been in this position before so I expect a bit of nerves at the start, but I’m striking the ball well, the putter is warm and I have gained a lot of experience in the nine months. If I stick to my own game and I string together another round like the last two days, it’s going to be tough to catch me.’
Meanwhile, Jonathan Waschefort’s 71 saw him move into sole fifth at five under and Dean O’Riley – a two-time IGT Tour winner this season – fired a flawless six-under 66 to collect R500 for the low-round honours.
The Benoni pro tied for sixth on one under with Kyle Barker, whose stirring finish of three consecutive birdies saw him register a 71.
By Lali Stander
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA.
135 – Ruan Conradie AMA 67 68
140 – Tristen Strydom 71 69, Gregg Blainey (ENG) 70 70, Andrew Carlsson AMA 69 71
141 – Jonathan Waschefort 70 71
143 – Kyle Barker 72 71, Dean O’Riley 77 66