16th March 2015 | Big Easy IGT Golf

Rambo and Ritchie share GFG Academy Classic lead

Irene16-18MarDay1 (69)(PHOTO – Christiaan Bezuidenhout; credit CJ du Plooy)

TSHWANE, 16 March 2015 – Christiaan Bezuidenhout made a huge statement in his pro debut when he claimed a share of the first round lead alongside second-year Sunshine Tour pro JC Ritchie Amateur in the GFG Academy Classic on Monday.

After serving a nine-month suspension, the country’s former number one ranked amateur fired a five-under-par 67 at Irene Country Club to match Ritchie’s effort and snared joint position at Irene Country Club.

Ritchie from the host academy reeled in eight birdies to offset three bogeys, while Bezuidenhout, or Rambo as he is affectionately called by his peers, negated two bogeys with four birdies on the front nine and a string of three more gains over the closing holes.

The duo has a one stroke lead over IGT Tour graduate Hennie du Plessis, who claimed the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School in January.

Irene16-18MarDay1 (57)Reigning Battle of the Giants champion Jacques Kruyswijk finished a further stroke adrift and shares fourth place with fellow Sunshine Tour players Daniel Hammond, Tyrone Ryan, Dean O’Riley and Shaun Smith.

Bezuidenhout was using medication to suppress a severe stutter – a condition he has been suffering from since childhood – for years. However, the medication contained Beta-Blockers and the 20-year-old tested positive for the banned substance during a random drug test at the 2014 British Amateur in June last year.

A two-year worldwide ban was handed down by the International Golf Federation, but following his appeal hearing in February, Bezuidenhout was informed that the ban would be lifted on 16 March. The young gun was absolutely delighted to put the ordeal behind him and focus on the future.

“It was really tough to work through what happened to me, but now I just want to get on with my life, and my career, now,” he said.

“The support from my family, the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation and my coach, Dougie Wood from Wanna be a Champion, carried me through the last nine months.

“They all motivated me and helped me to stay on track with my game, so that I would be ready to compete when the time came.

“I won’t lie, I was pretty nervous before I teed off. I knew the world would be watching and I was scared that it would all go south. I just focussed on playing shot-for-shot, hole-for-hole and I think only relaxed by the time I got to the turn.”

Bezuidenhout interrupted an early birdie run from the third to the seventh with a bogey at the par-four fourth. “I left my tee shot short of the green, hit an average chip and two-putted,” he said.

He turned in three under, but bogeyed the par-five 10th after he caught a flier out of the semi-rough, over-shot the green and ended in the water.

“Overall, my game was really solid and my iron-play was very good,” Bezuidenhout said.

“I had four tap-in birdies and I hit it close for the other birdies, as well. It went a lot better than I anticipated, but it’s only day one and there are a lot of holes still to play.

“It’s indescribably good to be out there, competing again.”

Meanwhile Divan Marais cashed in when he aced the 16th with a sand-wedge and was given R1,000 for his trouble, sponsored by the GFG Academy.

The GFG Academy Classic is the second of its kind on the IGT Tour.

The country’s premier development Tour collaborated with eight academies in an effort to showcase their programmes and raise awareness among the emerging amateur pool.

Former Golf School of Excellence graduate Duane Keun claimed the first victory in the Academy Series when he triumphed in the TGSE Academy Classic at Huddle Park Golf Club last week.

In addition to the GFG Academy and TGSE Academy, the other academies that have signed up include the Gary Player Golf Experience, Wanna be a Champion Academy, Centurion Academy, BDGA Academy, Tour Bound Golf Academy and RAW Golf School.

Each academy will host four Academy Classic events.

FIRST ROUND SCORES

67 – JC Ritchie, Christiaan Bezuidenhout

68 – Hennie Du Plessis

69 – Daniel Hammond, Tyrone Ryan, Dean O’Riley, Shaun Smith, Jacques Kruyswijk

70 – Neil Cheetham (ENG), Hilton Hughes AMA, David Ashley AMA, Drikus Bruyns, Zander Lombard

71 – Ruan Conradie AMA, Rosswell Sinclair AMA, Derik Ferreira, Glen de Waal (NAM), Desvonde Botes, Francois Coetzee

72 – Arno Bartholoma (GER), Michael Palmer, Coert Groenewald, Conway Kunneke, Bryn Flanagan, Stephan Erasmus AMA, Ockert Strydom

73 – Wesley Baptiste AMA, Pierre Viviers, Louis Calitz, Gideon Pienaar, Gert Myburgh, Matthew Vogel, Jaco Prinsloo

74 – Otto van Greunen, Rae Mackie, Louis Taylor AMA, Ruan Huysamen (NAM), Niel Meyer, Lean Boezaart, Dylan O’Leary, Herman Minnie, Russel Franz

75 – Bernard Hattingh AMA, Bartjie De Klerk AMA, Christiaan Pretorius, Eddie Taylor, Wim Grobler, Carlos Arroyo AMA, Wayne Stroebel, Joubert Van Eeden AMA, Andrew Light, Werner Van Niekerk, Breyten Meyer, Reynhard Reynecke AMA, Andrew McLardy

76 – Dwayne Coetzee, Duane Keun, Shaun van Tonder, Dayne Moore (ZAM), Murray Smit, James Garlinge AMA, Michael Armstrong AMA, Michael Jooste AMA, Albert Visser AMA

77 – Fouche Botha AMA, Owen Grobler, Ruan Korb AMA, Duan Nagel AMA, Rhoan Gardiner, Paul Cuningham, Matthew Adams AMA, Johan Van Der Wath AMA, Werner Lourens AMA, Chris Haefele, Divan Marais AMA

78 – Lourens Du Plessis, Justin Levy (NLD), PG Van der Linde, Louis Botha, Danie Pretorius

79 – Rikus Oosthuizen AMA, CJ Levey AMA, Michael Kok AMA, TJ Bekker, Shingirirayi Shumba (ZIM), Brandon Lydon AMA

80 – Simon Kruger AMA, Juan De Bruin AMA, Marais Visagie, Zander Potgieter AMA, David Marks AMA, Waldi Potgieter AMA, Michael Van Hoeck AMA (BEL), Wynand Dingle, Sergio Alves AMA, Langley Perrins

81 – Wayne du Toit, Keanan Aysen AMA

82 – Gustav Gouws AMA, Pedro August, Romano Saincic, Francois van Rensburg AMA

83 – David Lamprecht

85 – Angelo Marques AMA, Jason Ackerman AMA

86 – Hakkies Griesel AMA, Rancan Meyer AMA, FJ Staal

87 – Stefan Jordaan AMA, Dean Schonegevel AMA

88 – Sean Graham AMA

94 – Frans Faber AMA

96 – John Hanekom AMA

100 – Melchior Raath AMA

Missed the cut:-

N/R – Keagan Thomas AMA

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