5th May 2016 | Big Easy IGT Golf
Nel nails maiden win in CMR Challenge
ROODEPOORT, 5 May 2016 – You really couldn’t blame Pretoria amateur Eric Nel for feeling a little shell-shocked after he sealed a maiden IGT Tour victory in the CMR Challenge on Thursday. After all, who expects to win his first title on the pro circuit with a three bogeys in a row?
“It was really a very weird feeling when I walked off the course,” said the stunned, yet elated 18-year-old player from Centurion. “I was super excited on the one hand and completely baffled on the other.
“I was five under with three to play, but after the bogey at 17 I felt like I was fighting for survival. Then I dropped 18, as well and I still won by two shots. Like I said, I really weird day.”
Nel opened with a 67 to lead the first round, but lost the advantage to Justin Turner after carding a 70 in round two. He began the final 18 one off the pace in a tie for second with Sunshine Tour professional Matthew Spacey.
“Matt shot 67 in the second round and he started with a birdie, while I made par and Justin dropped, so I definitely considered him a threat,” Nel said.
“But then he had back-to-back bogeys. I told myself to stop worrying about him and to focus on my own game and I birdied five, seven and nine to turn in 10 under.”
Turner dropped more shots at four and eight, but got one back with a birdie at five. He turned six under, while Spacey parred his way to turn.
Spacy had another brace of bogeys at 11 and 12, Turner had two pars and Nel birdied 12. The young gun followed with a solid par at 13 with birdie at the short 14 to go 12 under, while Turner and Spacey both made par.
But it was after a trio of pars at 15 that things went pear-shaped for Nel.
“I had a six shot lead on Justin and I was eight shots ahead of Matthew, so I decided to go for another birdie,” the GFG Academy player said. “My drive finished below a tree and I couldn’t take a full shot, so I punched out and flew the green.
“I putted from just off the green and made the second putt for bogey,” Nel said. “I flew the green at 17 and three-putt for another bogey. I still had four shots on Justin, but Matt birdied 16 to close the gap. I was still really calm, because I knew I had shots in hand.”
Spacey mailed his tee shot down the centre of the 18th fairway, but Nel and Turner both leaked their drives out of bounds on the right.
“I hit my third shot into the bunker, splashed out and holed the putt for bogey,” Nel said. “Justin made six, but Matthew ended up making eagle, so that four shot cushion was good. I started strong and build up a big lead and I didn’t feel under pressure.
“I played a couple of IGT Tour events in the last two years, but this year I’ve played every tournament and I’ve learned a lot from competing against the pros. It feels pretty awesome to get one over on my buddy Ross (Sinclair). We have both been at GFG Academy for some years and he always outperformed me on the amateur circuit. He has been playing the IGT Tour for a few years, so it feels pretty good to get to the winner’s circle before him.”
Spacey’s eagle at 18 for a 72 handed the Dainfern golfer sole second on 209, while England’s David Ashley closed with a 70 to finish a further stroke adrift. Turner’s 75 netter the Western Province golfer a share of fourth on 211 with Clinton Grobbler (69) and Damian Naicker (73).