24th July 2017 | IGT Golf

Strydom sweeps into Wingate Challenge lead

(PHOTO – Tristen Strydom; credit CJ du Plooy)

TSHWANE, 24 July 2017 – A birdie blitz on the back nine at Wingate Park Country Club earned two-time IGT Challenge Tour winner Tristen Strydom the first round lead in the Wingate Challenge on Monday.

The Pretoria golfer set a furious pace on the opening day as he racked up six birdies in his last seven holes for a seven-under-par 65.

Although his target remained unchallenged, fellow Pretoria pro Ruan Conradie eagled the par five 15th and birdied the 18th for a 66 and Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigner Ivanna Samu from Ruimsig reeled in four birdies down the back stretch to get within two shots of the lead.

Ruan Korb from Silver Lakes secured fourth with a 68, while amateur Louis Albertse and Maritz Wessels rounded out the top five with a pair of 69s.

Given Strydom’s track record, the chasing pack will have to pull out all the stops to keep him from adding to his silverware haul on the country’s premier golf development circuit.

Strydom dominated the South African Golf Association Open Amateur rankings in 2014, but was side-lined for most of 2015 due to back injury. Before the injury he won his maiden IGT Challenge Tour title in his fourth start in 2014 and as soon as he came off the bench, was back to his winning ways with victories in the Irene Challenge, the Wingate Challenge and Race to Q-School at Sun City last year.

Strydom has been campaigning in the United States since the end of March, but he didn’t waste any time to make his presence felt in his first start this season.

“I played the front loop well, very solid,” said Strydom. “I had a two-putt birdie at the par five and knocked in 15-footer at the third for birdie. No real chances from four to seven, but I missed putts inside eight feet for birdies at the eighth and nine holes.

“I turned two under and made a solid par at 10, but then I two poor shots at 11 for my only bogey. I was not pleased with myself after that messy hole, but Kyle (Lundy) did a great job to get my head back in the game.”

Strydom chipped in from short of the green at the par four 12th to launch the four-birdie run that set him up for the lead.

“At the 13th, I made a great up-and-down for birdie after just missing the green and I holed a 25-footer for birdie at 14,” he said. “I was just short of the green again with my second at par five (15), but I chipped it close and made the putt for birdie and rocked home another birdie.

“I two-putted for birdie at the short hole (16) and holed another long one, almost 20 feet, at 17. At the last hole, I was on the green for two. I had about 25 feet left for eagle and the putt stopped just short of the hole, leaving me with a tap-in for birdie.”

Strydom entered this week and the Waterkloof Challenge next week to keep competitive and to build some confidence before he heads back to the United States.

“I went to the States to gain some international experience,” Strydom said. “I competed on mini-tours like the Adams Tour and GProTour and I played the Monday Qualifiers for the Web.com Tour (feeder tour for the PGA Tour) for the last four months.

“The Monday Qualifiers are birdie shoot-outs. You’re up against a lot of the guys that are former PGA or Web.com Tour pros that lost their cards, so you have to shoot very low to qualify. I came close twice. I shot 66 and missed the cut by one and missed by two shots in the other.

“It’s great to have a circuit at home as competitive as those abroad to stay in tournament shape. My aim is just to keep on improving until I can break onto the Web.com Tour and work my way to the PGA Tour. You learn a lot about yourself and you mature fast when you’re abroad on your own, but his time Kyle is coming with me. I think I’ll do even better having a best friend over there for company and encouragement.”

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