Coert Groenewald stole a march on the field in the Race to Q-School #16 to bag his seventh IGT Challenge Tour title at State Mines Golf Club on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old from Roodepoort fired a flawless six-under-par 66 to seal a three-shot victory on 13-under-203 over Alrich Labuschagne, Paul Boshoff and leader Gregg Blainey from England.
Groenewald has knocked several times during the 18-event preparation series for the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School and was pleased with the timely win.
‘D-Day is less than a month away, so this is the perfect time to start winning,’ he said. ‘I had a couple of close calls, so to pull it through this close is great. It’s nice to take some confidence into the last two Race to Q-School events.’
Groenewald posted rounds of 70 and 67 and lagged two off the pace from joint overnight leaders Blainey and Thriston Lawrence starting the last day.
Both Lawrence and Blainey backpedalled over the first nine holes, and Groenewald was able to close the gap with birdies at seven, nine and 10. Further gains at 13, 15 and 18 lifted him to the top of the pile.
He said he battled with the driver and three-wood, but he found some good rhythm with his irons. ‘I hit the driver and the three-wood like a dog over all three rounds, but my iron play was really solid and I gave myself a lot of chances,’ he said. ‘I didn’t make any spectacular saves or long birdie putts, all six birdies were pretty standard, but I did leave at least seven birdies out there. It certainly could have been better, but I’ll take the win any day.’
Groenewald campaigned on the country’s premier development circuit from 2012 and graduated to the Sunshine Tour three years later.
‘Unfortunately I didn’t keep my card; I missed the cut-off by a few rand,’ he said. ‘So I went back to Q-School for 2016, but I was deadly ill in Bloemfontein over the first two days and it cost me dearly.
‘It’s been a long and frustrating season since then, especially after they moved the Q-School from December to March.
‘It’s tough when you’ve been there and then have to wait out a whole season to have another stab at Q-School. Playing on the IGT Challenge Tour has kept me competitive and the Race to Q-School gives me a chance to go straight to the Final Stage. I’m lying third on the Order of Merit and the top five are exempt into the Final Stage, so I’m going to fight hard to protect that third spot in the last two tournaments.
‘It’s really fantastic that we are playing the Final Stage at Randpark. I played a lot of amateur golf there and it’s a great track. It’s also nice to sleep in your own bed and have some home comforts during Q-School, because it’s the toughest week of the season.’
Blainey closed with a 71 to tie for second on 206, while Boshoff shot 69 and Labuschagne shot up the leaderboard with a superb 66.
By Lali Stander
All competitors SA unless otherwise indicated and amateurs indicated as AMA
203 – Coert Groenewald 70 67 66
206 – Alrich Labuschagne 70 70 66, Paul Boshoff 70 67 69, Gregg Blainey (ENG) 70 65 71
207 – Jonathan Waschefort 69 70 68
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