26th March 2015 | Big Easy IGT Golf

Bezuidenhout breaks through at Centurion Academy Classic

Wingate23-25MarchDay3 (132)(Photo – Christiaan Bezuidenhout; credit Cois du Plooy)

TSHWANE, 25 March 2015 – The sense of relief was palpable as Christiaan Bezuidenhout sank his birdie putt at the 18th to claim a maiden pro victory in the IGT Tour’s Centurion Academy Classic at Wingate Park Country Club on Wednesday.

Bezuidenhout dominated the South African amateur scene in 2013 and 2014 until he was handed a nine-month suspension for the inadvertent use of a banned substance to treat a severe stutter.

The ban cast a dark shadow over his promising career, but Bezuidenhout closed the door on the heartache and sadness that followed with victory in only his second start in the pro ranks.

“Now it is really all over for me,” said the delighted 20-year-old Delmas golfer.

“It feels great to get the first one under the belt and hopefully there will be a few more to follow.”

Bezuidenhout closed with a 67 for two stroke victory on 13 under 203.

The overnight leader finished two strokes ahead of Werner van Niekerk, who overcame a six shot deficit with a final round nine-under-par 63.

The IGT Tour graduate was also the first to express what all the Bezuidenhout supporters thought.

“Rambo showed everyone today that he is a true champion,” Van Niekerk said.

“He outplayed a field packed with Sunshine Tour professionals; he won fair and square, without any medication and he showed great courage.

“A lot of us were misinformed when we first heard about the suspension, but we have since been rooting for him. This is his vindication, but it’s also a victory for the truth.”

Bezuidenhout carried a two-stroke cushion into the final round over Sunshine Tour pros Russel Franz and Drikus van der Walt.

He laid down a marker with birdie start and a hat-trick of birdies from the fourth.

“That gave me some nice momentum,” said Bezuidenhout. “All the birdies were inside four feet, so the irons and the putter was working well. I had a lip-out at the seventh and left it in the throat at the eight, but even after a three-putt bogey at the ninth I felt good.”

Meanwhile Van Niekerk notched four birdies on the front nine and began closing the gap with five more gains in the first six holes after the turn.

Bezuidenhout birdied the 11th to get to 12 under, but had a run of straight pars until the final hole.

“When I reached the 14th, I heard Werner was 10 under with two par fives to come,” the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation player said. “I didn’t feel I had to get too aggressive. I just kept it steady.

“I saw he was in the clubhouse at 11 under when I got to 18. I told myself just finish it off with par. I hit a great tee shot straight down the middle, but the adrenaline was pumping.

“I mean, I was hitting a seven-iron almost 190 meters. I left myself a 15-footer, just lagged it close – no heroics – and made the putt for birdie.

“It feels pretty good to get this first win. I played some good shots and the confidence is coming.”

After a string of failed qualifiers, Sunshine Tour rookie Van Niekerk was thrilled with his performance.

“It’s been frustrating, because I missed by one stroke in three of them” he said.

“At least my sponsor, Manni Oerich from Kukama Wings Shooting Safaris, can see he hasn’t backed a donkey. I just hope I get into the Zimbabwe Open so I can ride this confidence to my first cheque on the Sunshine Tour.”

Centurion Academy entered 11 players into their event and head of operations, Stef Visage, said the players definitely benefitted from competing in the 54-hole event.

“Two of our amateurs Ruan Korb and Peetie van der Merwe, both made the cut, which we are really pleased about,” Visage said.

“Most of our players have never played in a tournament with live scoring, let alone competed in such a strong field and it was a great opportunity for them to test themselves.

“The opportunity afforded us by the IGT Tour to educate the players on what we offer at Centurion Academy has been fantastic, too.

“We aim to give any player, regardless of talent, experience, knowledge or financial shortcomings, the opportunity to play tournament golf at the highest level.

“We want to see our players develop as professional golfers, while receiving a proper qualification recognised by the PGA of South Africa to pursue a career as a golf professional.”

FINAL RESULT

203 – Christiaan Bezuidenhout 71 65 67

205 – Werner Van Niekerk 70 72 63

208 – Tyrone Ryan 72 72 64, Jacques Kruyswijk 71 68 69

209 – Ockert Strydom 72 69 68

210 – Ryan Cairns (ZIM) 69 72 69

211 – Lean Boezaart 70 72 69, Conway Kunneke 69 71 71

212 – David Ashley AMA 73 71 68, Toto Thimba Jnr 72 71 69

213 – Desvonde Botes 71 73 69, Louis Calitz 69 74 70

214 – Rosswell Sinclair AMA 74 72 68, Mark Williams 71 73 70, Zander Lombard 75 71 68, Derik Ferreira 74 70 70, Drikus Bruyns 71 69 74

215 – Francois Coetzee 74 71 70, Thriston Lawrence 74 72 69, Niel Meyer 76 72 67, Russel Franz 69 69 77

216 – Stuart Smith (BOT) 73 71 72, Drikus Van der Walt 75 63 78

217 – Alwyn Vorster 72 73 72, Gideon Pienaar 73 74 70, Allan Versfeld 76 68 73, Roberto Lupini 75 72 70, Danie Pretorius 73 74 70, Wayne du Toit 72 70 75, Carrie Park AMA 70 72 75

218 – Ruan Korb AMA 73 74 71, Grant Doverspike (USA) 74 74 70, Hilton Hughes AMA 81 68 69, Ryan Tipping 75 75 68

219 – Ruan Huysamen (NAM) 71 75 73, Calvin Caldeira 75 70 74, NJ Arnoldi AMA 73 72 74, Michael Armstrong AMA 73 74 72, Shaun Smith 71 73 75, Herman Minnie 71 73 75, Stephan Erasmus AMA 75 73 71, Dylan O’Leary 74 75 70

220 – Peetie Van Der Merwe AMA 75 69 76, Dongkwan Kim (KOR) 73 75 72

221 – Neil Cheetham (ENG) 78 68 75, Bryn Flanagan 75 72 74, Ted Hendriks 71 77 73, Glen de Waal (NAM) 77 72 72

222 – Tyron Mc Comb 71 72 79, Eric Nel AMA 75 73 74

223 – Simon Kruger AMA 73 72 78, Christiaan Pretorius 73 75 75, Wynand Dingle 76 72 75

224 – Chris Haefele 78 72 74, Otto van Greunen 75 75 74

225 – Wim Grobler 76 71 78, Breyten Meyer 74 76 75

227 – Joubert Van Eeden AMA 74 76 77

229 – Rikus Oosthuizen AMA 75 75 79

232 – Khaya Jika 77 73 82

RTD – Phillip Kruse AMA 75 74 RTD

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