29th May 2014 | Big Easy IGT Golf

Franz revels in maiden delight at Wingate

Wingate26-28Mayday3 (51)(Photo – Russel Franz; credit CJ du Plooy)

TSHWANE, 28 May 2014 – Pretoria amateur Russel Franz celebrated a memorable week when he closed with a one-under-par 71 to claim a maiden IGT Tour breakthrough at the third Race to the USA at Wingate Park Country Club on Wednesday.

The lanky Franz and fellow Pretoria player Werner van Niekerk shared the overnight lead and were neck-in-neck coming down the home straight. However, the amateur held his nerve against a late charge from his professional opponent to clinch a one shot victory on seven-under-par 209.

Sunshine Tour rookie Jacques Kruyswijk fired a 69 and Jaco Prinsloo returned a 71 to tie for third on 212.

The feat was especially sweet for Franz, who considered giving up the game less than a year ago.

“I won this tournament, but I wouldn’t even be holding this trophy if it wasn’t for Jerry Few, the president of Gauteng North Golf Union, and my coach, Graeme Francis,” Franz said.

“I had actually stopped playing when Jerry called me last year. The union decided to allow one wild card entry onto their Inter-Provincial team through a series of qualifiers.

“He wanted me to compete and he just wouldn’t take no for an answer. Due to his persistence, I won the wild card to make the team. After we won the SA IPT, my life changed.

“I knew I wanted to make golf a career and my game was pretty solid, but I kept letting myself down with tantrums and negative thoughts. Graeme helped me turn that around. Now I channel pressure into positive energy and even when things got a little shaky over the last few holes, I kept really positive.

“This victory is as much theirs as mine.”

The Zwartkops amateur was in commanding form all week.

He took a two shot lead in the first round, held on for a share of pole position in the second and was a figure of consistency in the final round as he dropped just one shot in his march to victory.

“I hit 32 fairways this week and I managed to up-and-down for par at two I missed and I’m really happy with that,” he said.  “Although the putter went cold on me in the second round, I managed to keep myself in contention, and pulling it through is definitely a great confidence builder.

“My only mistake in the final round was a three-putt at the 13th.  Apart from that, my course management was solid and that helped my confidence a lot.

“I really enjoy the variety of pros and amateurs I compete against on the IGT Tour. I believe I am improving all the time and I’m look forward to more success.”

His former Gauteng North stable mate has been equally solid this season.

In addition to six top 10 finishes in 10 events, the runner-up finish marked Van Niekerk’s second in his last four starts.

“I played well all-week, but if I’ve to put down one mistake on the final day, it would wrong choices,” the Wingate Park player said. “I just made silly mistakes under pressure, but if I continue playing this way, a win can’t be far off.”

Meanwhile former top SA amateur Brandon Stone was forced to withdraw after he received a call for a visa appointment during the final round.

“I applied for visas for Spain and Portugal to compete on the Challenge Tour,” Stone explained. “I got the call late on Tuesday and you have to show, because waiting for the next appointment can take very long.

“I was pretty disappointed, because I really enjoyed the opportunity to play against the guys. It’s great to keep competitive on my break and have the chance to play against my dad.

“It’s great to see the Gauteng North amateurs do so well, with Zander Lombard and now Russel Franz both winning this year.”

FINAL RESULT

209 – Russel Franz (AMA) 67 71 71

210 – Werner Van Niekerk 71 67 72

212 – Jacques Kruyswijk 70 73 69, Jaco Prinsloo 74 67 71

214 – JC Ritchie 70 74 70, Lean Boezaart 72 69 73, Gideon Pienaar 71 70 73

215 – Conway Kunneke 67 74 74

216 – Antonio Rosado POR 72 73 71, Brendan De Lange 69 73 74, Rae Mackie 73 68 75

217 – Hyun Park KOR 75 71 71, Jerry Steyn 75 69 73

218 – Hano van der Walt 77 69 72, Calvin Caldeira (AMA) 72 71 75, Jonathan Waschefort 74 70 74, Ludovic Bax MUS (AMA) 73 70 75

220 – Jason Froneman (AMA) 75 72 73

221 – Tom Watson (AMA) 74 70 77

222 – Keegan De Lange (AMA) 78 70 74, Coert Groenewald 73 74 75, Herman Minnie 72 76 74, Andi Dill (AMA) 76 72 74, Albert Pistorius 77 72 73, Kevin Stone 72 72 78, Rob Menzies ENG 77 74 71, Stephan Erasmus (AMA) 71 72 79

223 – Slade Fick (AMA) 74 75 74, Hilton Hughes (AMA) 76 73 74, Anton Steenkamp (AMA) 70 73 80, Ruan Conradie (AMA) 78 76 69

224 – Ted Hendriks 73 72 79, Willie Steyn 74 72 78, Byron Garvie 77 74 73

225 – Mike Downes ENG 77 71 77, Romano Saincic 76 71 78, Brett Liddle 72 74 79, Wayne du Toit 78 72 75, Pieter Kruger 78 74 73

226 – Pierre Viviers 70 79 77, Dongkwan Kim KOR 77 74 75

227 – Johan Smit (AMA) 74 77 76

228 – Jongikyaya Jika 76 76 76

229 – Duane Keun 76 74 79

230 – Wesley Baptiste (AMA) 76 78 76

231 – Mike Quinn 76 71 84, Matthew Kiewitz (AMA) 77 72 82, Ruwan Combrink 78 74 79, Wayne Stroebel 74 80 77

232 – Gustav Gouws (AMA) 75 77 80, Stephan De Beer (AMA) 76 78 78, Gareth Akers (AMA) 74 80 78, Niel Meyer (AMA) 77 78 77

233 – Hanbo Lee 77 77 79, Alwyn Vorster 77 78 78

234 – CJ Levey (AMA) 77 78 79

235 – Lydon Charnely (AMA) 79 74 82

238 – JP Schmidt (AMA) 72 79 87, Ryan Wingrove (AMA) 76 79 83

WDN – Brandon Stone 73 70 WDN

Latest Big Easy IGT Golf News