16th May 2016 | Big Easy IGT Golf
Courageous Kruger rules at Ruimsig Challenge
The 23-year-old from Thabazimbi opened with a sizzling six-under-par 66 to finish one stroke clear of last week’s Houghton Challenge champion Anton Haig and two shots ahead of 2015 TGSE Academy Classic winner Duane Keun.
Terence Boardman – who claimed his maiden IGT Tour win at the Kyalami Challenge in February – sits in fourth at three under with DK Kim from Korea, Johary Raveloarison from Madagascar and amateur Ruan Korb.
Krappie, as Kruger is known among by his peers, plundered the front nine at Ruimsig Country Club with five birdies to turn five under and he was decidedly pleased to finish in pole position after erasing bogeys at 11 and 17 with birdies at 12, 15 and 17.
“It was such a great experience to play with Anton and Carrie (Park) in the final group last week,” he said. “It had been quite a while since I put myself in contention and I took a lot of positives out of the final round at Houghton.
“I learned a lot from playing with Anton and Carrie. They are both incredible ball strikers, but it was their focus and their ability to stay in the moment that really impressed me.”
The GFG Academy player had chances to claim a maiden win on the country’s premier development Tour in the TGSE Classic at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club and the Gary Player School for Champions Academy Classic at Kyalami Country Club last year, but believes his lack of experience playing under pressure cost him.
“I let my mind wander and, instead of focussing on my own game, I allowed myself to get distracted by the leaderboard and by the other players,” Kruger said.
“You have to stay focussed on your own goals for 18 holes. You can’t allow your mind to wander and you have to keep moving forward; you can’t spend time and energy worrying about a bad shot or a bogey. It’s done, so you need to concentrate on what’s coming, not what’s happened already.”
Kruger is understandably eager to get his own podium finish after a third place finish at the ERPM Challenge in April and fourth at the Houghton Challenge last week.
“I played the front nine really well, especially the last four holes,” he said. “I split the fairway on every hole, put my approaches around the flags and holed the birdie putts. I had two three-putt bogeys on the back nine, but each time I was able to reverse the damage with a birdie to keep myself in contention.
“I didn’t pay any attention to what my playing partners were doing or what was happening on the leaderboard and that was the key to my score today. That’s why I am so happy to be in the mix for a second week running. Even if the win doesn’t come off this week, I am giving myself the chance to learn to cope with the pressure and the pay-off will follow.”
Park carded a one over 73 and leads the ladies challenge by one shot from South Africa’s number one ranked amateur Ivanna Samu. Fellow Sunshine Ladies Tour rookie Lejan Lewthwaite, who took second at Houghton last week, opened with a 76.