26th May 2014 | Big Easy IGT Golf

Feisty Franz shares lead at Wingate

DSC_0206(Photo – Russell Franz; credit CJ du Plooy)

JOHANNESBURG, 26 May 2014 – Pretoria amateur Russel Franz will take a healthy two shot lead into the second round of the IGT Tour’s third Race to the USA after a solid performance at Wingate Park Country Club on Monday.

The 23-year-old Zwartkops golfer was in scintillating form as he snatched two birdies on either side of a lone bogey at the par-three eighth and an eagle at the closing par-five 18th for a five-under-par 67 and a share of the lead with Irene’s Conway Kunneke, equally impressive with a flawless round.

The pair lead by two from IGT Tour winner Brendan de Lange, and are three strokes ahead of pros Pierre Viviers, Jacques Kruyswijk, JC Ritchie and amateur Anton Steenkamp.

Franz come into the third event in the Race to USA series with quite a bit of confidence.

“I won the Zwartkops Stroke Play Club Championship by seven strokes a week ago and the Match Play Club Championships on the weekend,” he said. “I felt good about my game this morning and I guess it showed. I was driving the ball really well and I hardly missed a green.

“I hit the ball better at ERPM two weeks ago, but I was putting so bad in the final round that I actually told my coach, Graeme Francis, that I was too scared to putt. He and I put a lot of hours in with the putter over the last week and today I really enjoyed it out there.”
His confidence in the short stick showed as Franz nailed all his birdie putts and the eagle effort from around 20 feet. “I had a three-putt at the par-five 15th, so I told the course it owed me one and I got the birdie at the 16th when I holed a 25-footer for birdie,” he said.

“Your putts never all drop, but if they had today I would be 10 under. My goal is six birdies per round and 18 birdies in a tournament. Six months ago that kind of statistic scared me to death, but you actually learn to cope better with the pressure when you have goals like that.”

Franz completed his PGA diploma, but hopes to stay on the amateur circuit until the 2015 Sunshine Tour Qualifying School.

“I compete on the amateur circuit for Gauteng North, but I also have the chance to tee it up against the professionals on the IGT Tour, so I am enjoying the best of both worlds,” he explained.

“I hope to represent Gauteng North at the SA Inter-Provincial later this year, but in the meantime, I split my time and the balance is working for me. I am gaining more confidence this way. I am definitely more confident and more consistent than six months ago.”

Kunneke’s game plan paid handsome dividends with a pair of birdies at the fourth and fifth, another brace of birdies at the eighth and ninth and a final birdie at the par-three 14th.

“I came into the tournament with no expectations, because I knew the course would be set up tough,” the 22-year-old explained. “I aimed to shoot even par.

“I made a conscious decision to hit short of the pin and give myself uphill putts if I found myself in an awkward position. The tactic paid off, because I kept my card clean and that is great start for me.”

Meanwhile experience won out as 47-year-old Sunshine Tour regular Kevin Stone finished a shot ahead of his 21-year-old son and young professional, Brandon.

Stone Snr offset four birdies and an eagle with a bogey, double and triple bogey for a 72, while Stone Jnr came home in one over 73 after four birdies and five dropped shots.

FIRST ROUND SCORES

67 – Conway Kunneke, Russel Franz (AMA)

69 – Brendan De Lange

70 – Pierre Viviers, Anton Steenkamp (AMA), Jacques Kruyswijk, JC Ritchie

71 – Stephan Erasmus (AMA), Gideon Pienaar, Werner Van Niekerk

72 – Kevin Stone, Antonio Rosado POR, Brett Liddle, Calvin Caldeira (AMA), JP Schmidt (AMA), Herman Minnie, Lean Boezaart

73 – Ted Hendriks, Ludovic Bax MUS (AMA), Coert Groenewald, Shaun van Tonder, Rae Mackie, Brandon Stone

74 – Gareth Akers (AMA), Slade Fick (AMA), Tom Watson (AMA), Jonathan Waschefort, Willie Steyn, Johan Smit (AMA), Wayne Stroebel, Jaco Prinsloo

75 – Jerry Steyn, Gustav Gouws (AMA), Jason Froneman (AMA), Hyun Park KOR

76 – Hilton Hughes (AMA), Mike Quinn, Duane Keun, Wesley Baptiste (AMA), Jongikyaya Jika, Romano Saincic, Peetie Van Der Merwe (AMA), Stephan De Beer (AMA), Albert Visser (AMA), Werner Lourens (AMA), Ryan Wingrove (AMA), Andi Dill (AMA)

77 – Ruan Botha, Mike Downes ENG, JC van Dommelen, Matthew Kiewitz (AMA), Rob Menzies ENG, CJ Levey (AMA), Justin Thomas (AMA), Hanbo Lee, Alwyn Vorster, Albert Pistorius, Niel Meyer (AMA), Dongkwan Kim KOR, Hano van der Walt, Byron Garvie

78 – David Lamprecht, Ruan Conradie (AMA), Ruwan Combrink, Wayne du Toit, Robert Herselman, Keegan De Lange (AMA), Andrew Lamont (AMA), Hayden Millar (AMA), Michael Van Hoeck (AMA), Pieter Kruger

79 – Dylan de Beer, Francesca Cuturi, Rhoan Gardiner, Lydon Charnely (AMA), Lucas Steyn

80 – Jandre Fullard (AMA), Lloyd Herbst (AMA), James Garlinge (AMA), Morne Wolmarans (AMA)

81 – Leon Scheepers (AMA), Dwayne Coetzee, Paul De Beer

82 – Pieter Van der Linde (AMA), Jadrick Fourie (AMA)

83 – Arno Pretorius (AMA), Arno Bartholoma (AMA), Alex Botha (AMA), Loic Csizmadia MUS (AMA), Michael Jooste (AMA), Duncan Neill (AMA)

86 – Stefan Malan

87 – Benjamin Cobbett (AMA), Christiaan Pretorius, Gustav Erasmus

91 – Daniel Joubert (AMA)

94 – Russell Jaques ENG (AMA)

96 – Ryan Kuhn (AMA)

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