18th January 2016 | Big Easy IGT Golf
Porteous, Lombard flip the switch for Strydom
JOHANNESBURG, 18 January 2016 – Every great golfer can flash back to a defining moment in his career; an experience that kicked his career into a higher gear.
For BMW SA Open champion Brandon Stone it was a shot off the beach during the final round of the Challenge Tour’s NBO Golf Classic Grand Final that helped him secure his European Tour card for 2016.
For Joburg Open champion Haydn Porteous, the kicker was Stone’s victory at Glendower. For Zander Lombard – the runner-up at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington on Sunday – it was a third place finish in the Australian PGA Championship late last year.
And, on Sunday, Porteous and Lombard flipped the switch for South Africa’s reigning number one amateur Tristen Strydom.
“You don’t need any more encouragement to step it up than watching two of your best friends finish one and two on golf’s biggest stage,” said Strydom after signing for an opening four-under-par 68 and a sole second place in the IGT Tour’s Wingate Park Country Club Open on Monday.
“I was gutted when I didn’t crack an invitation for the Joburg Open, but it was fate. I ended up watching every shot on the weekend and there were some big lessons to be learned. When I was coming through the junior ranks, I played a lot of golf with Haydn and Zander.
“Watching the way they handled themselves in Sunday’s final round was all-inspiring. It was like a switch flipped for me. Haydn said this week that you can’t practice like an amateur in the professional game and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.”
Lombard, who won multiple events on the IGT Tour as an amateur, unexpectedly turned up at Wingate Park and spent some time before the start of the first round celebrating his 21st birthday with the aspirant professionals.
“Zander chatted to us about the Joburg Open experience and he encouraged us to work harder on the course, in the gym and to set goals for ourselves,” Strydom said.
“I am not planning to turn professional anytime soon, but even I realised that I have to make some serious changes right now if I want to be the last player to reach the 18th green in the SA Open or the Joburg Open in a few years.
“I am very fortunate that I will have a lot of support in the Golf RSA National Squad, but if I don’t put in the hard work, it will come to nothing.”
One of the things that impressed Strydom was the accuracy with which Porteous navigated the East Course on Sunday.
“Haydn didn’t miss one single green all day,” he said. “He usually plays with a lot of feeling and flair and it was amazing to see how conservative and methodically he played.
“I started today’s round with that in mind. I tried to hit every fairway and green in regulation and I did a pretty good job. I hit 14 fairways and missed just three greens. I made a 20-footer for birdie at the fourth, but I hit the rest of my approaches pretty close.”
Strydom claimed his first victory on the country’s premier development Tour at Benoni Country Club last year and he is going all out to collect a second trophy this week.
“Pieter Kruger is leading and he is a fierce competitor. He won the Race to Q-School last year and he won’t be easy to catch, but I’m going to give it an almighty try,” Strydom said.
GFG Academys Kruger dropped just one shot on his way to a 67 to lead by one from Strydom and by two shots from the bus at 69 that include Sunshine Tour campaigners CJ and Hennie du Plessis, Ireland’s Jeff Hopkins, IGT Tour winner Juan Langeveld and fellow amateurs Estiaan Conradie and Gary Daoust.