Pretoria golfer CJ Levey left nothing out on the Firethorn Course as he winged his way to a second IGT Challenge Tour victory in Race to QSchool #17 on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old fired a five-under-par 67 to beat rookies Ruan Conradie and Paul Boshoff to step into the winner’s circle with a one-shot victory on seven under 137.
The three T’s – Tristen Strydom, Thriston Lawrence and Terence Boardman – tied for fourth at four under, while Jabulane Mabilane closed with a 73 to grab a share of seventh at three under with fellow first round leader Jacques de Villiers and rookie Estiaan Conradie.
Levey was thrilled to end a 10-month winning drought so close to the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School next month.
‘This was just what I needed,’ Levey said. ‘I was involved in a car crash shortly after I won the Pro Squad Classic last April and it took me a long time to recover. My coach (Graeme Francis) and I also began working on two swing changes that took a while to come together, so I definitely didn’t expect to be standing here with a trophy in my hands just before QSchool.
‘This gives me a lot of confidence and my coach and my mate Simon Kruger deserves some credit. Simon took the bag this week and he did an incredible job of keeping me relaxed but in the moment. He just had the right words at the right time. While I worked on the swing changes, I had my doubts. You put in all that hard graft, but you can’t help wondering if it’s worth it. To lift the trophy is the best reward for the work we’ve done and this is a win for all three of us.’
The GFG Academy player was two shots behind the four-way tie at the top after a first round 70 on Monday, but he had a 24-hour long wait to launch his title bid when second round was abandoned after flooding rendered the course unplayable.
Levey made a solid start with a birdie at the second hole, but Ruan Conradie burst out of the gates with a four-birdie run to shoot to the top of the pile. Levey reduced the gap with back-to-back birdies at four and five, but he still lagged three behind Conradie at the turn.
‘I had a three-putt bogey at six, but Simon turned to me and said that’s great; it takes the pressure of a bogey-free rounds, so now I could just play,’ Levey said. ‘I hit a great shot into 10 and made the three-footer for birdie, but Ruan made birdie at 12 to stay three shots clear.
‘We both birdied the par five, but I knew I had a chance when he dropped two shots at the short hole (15). I told Simon six under wouldn’t be enough to win, but 16 and 17 are two very tough holes. I had been hitting the three-wood really well all day, so I took it out the bag and hit a great one down 16. I had 130 metres to the pin, and flew a pitching wedge to 20 foot and holed the putt.
‘Once I got it to seven under, I just wanted to play the last two holes solidly; no fancy tricks. I hit a good tee shot at 17 but it found the bunker and plugged just under the lip. It was a pretty tense moment but I did some good work there to up-and-down for par.’
Levey said the nerves set in on 18.
‘I hit it short and had 15 metres short of the green and had to chip it up, but I got it in the hole for the win, and that’s all that matters,’ Levey said. ‘It’s exciting to go to the last event in the Race to QSchool series next week on the back of a solid performance. Hopefully I can keep it going.’
By Lali Stander
137 – CJ Levey 70 67
138 – Ruan Conradie 70 68, Paul Boshoff 69 69
140 – Thriston Lawrence 71 69, Terence Boardman 71 69, Tristen Strydom 69 71
141 – Estiaan Conradie 71 70, Jacques de Villiers 68 73, Jabulane Mabilane 68 73
142 – Joubert van Eeden 71 71, Andi Dill 74 68, Elmo Barnard AMA 75 67