Kempton Park amateur Ruhan van Dijk produced the low round of the day at ERPM Golf Club to join the pack hunting second round leader Dean O’Riley in the IGT Tour’s Race to Q-School #1 on Tuesday.
O’Riley fired a 69 to overhaul first round pacesetter Kyle Barker and line up back-to-back victories on the country’s premier development Tour.
The Killarney Challenge winner began the second round three shots off the pace but caught up to Barker when he double bogeyed the ninth. The Benoni golfer offset bogeys at five and eight with three birdies on the front nine and reeled in three more gains down the back stretch to take pole position at seven-under-par 137.
Barker returned an even-par 72 to finish one shot behind O’Reilly and a stroke ahead of former IGT Tour champion Coert Groenewald, who also posted 68.
Van Dijk opened with a 74, but a superb six-under-par 66 in the second round helped to reduce an eight shot overnight deficit to just three strokes. He shares fourth with Damian Naicker and Paul de Beer, who carded respective rounds of 69 and 70.
The 19-year-old spent almost a year trying to come to grips with chipping yips, but a radical decision in August is starting to pay handsome dividends.
‘My coach Doug Wood and I tried to correct the technical aspects of my chipping, but my brain was having none of it,’ said Van Dijk. ‘The result was a lot of big numbers, because the frustration feeds through to other aspects of the game.
‘Michelle, another coach at Wanna Be A Champion Academy, suggested I change my grip to left hand low. It worked a little better, but I was uncomfortable and it didn’t work for long. So I went and bought a left-hand lob-wedge and started chipping left-handed.
‘I figured I couldn’t do any worse with the left hand than I was doing right-handed and it was such a relief when I finished in the top 20 at the Kyalami Challenge and the Centurion Challenge in August. Since then I’ve had a tie for 21st and joint 23rd, which are miles better than the results I’d been posting earlier this year.”
Van Dijk’s growing confidence showed as he notched five birdies and an eagle-three at 17.
‘I am striking the ball well, I’m putting nicely and I don’t stress over the chip shots anymore,” he said. “I picked up birdies at the second and fourth and made a lot of solid putts for par on the front nine, including sand-saves at the two par fives. My ball stopped right in the throat of the hole at the eighth and I had a proper lip-out at nine, so that was a bit unlucky, but I was happy to turn with a clean card.
‘I kept it bogey free until 14, where I three-putted, but to have a round with just the one blip was outstanding. I’m really pleased.’
Van Dijk graduated from Kempton Park High last year and is currently completing a Higher Certificate in Life and Environmental Sciences through UNISA.
‘At the moment I’m playing the IGT Tour and the South African amateur circuit between studying and working on the game,’ he said. ‘Ultimately I want to join the pro ranks, but whether that will happen next year, remains to be decided. Right now, I’m just happy to be in contention again and I’d like to work hard at keeping myself in those red numbers.’
SECOND ROUND SCORES
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA
137 – Dean O’Riley 69 68
138 – Kyle Barker 66 72
139 – Coert Groenewald 71 68
140 – Damian Naicker 71 69, Paul De Beer 70 70, Ruhan Van Dijk AMA 74 66