13th August 2014 | Big Easy IGT Golf

Ritchie on cloud nine after Irene triumph

JCRitchieWinner(Photo – JC Ritchie; credit CJ du Plooy)

TSHWANE, 13 August 2014 – No one could reel in JC Ritchie at Irene Country Club as the Pretoria golfer into streaked to a wire-to-wire victory in the IGT Tour’s third Race to Asian Q-School at his home course on Wednesday.

The GFG Academy player could even afford to drop two shots before he set the back nine alight with five birdies for a five under 67 and a five shot victory over amateur Jason Smith on 17-under-par 199.

The 20-year-old took a commanding three shot lead in the final round, but his opening loop gave little indication of the run on which he was about to embark.

Ritchie opened with two pars and a birdie, cancelled a bogey at the sixth with a birdie at the seventh and dropped another shot at the ninth to turn in 36.

However, back to back birdies at the par-four 11th and 12th took him well clear of the field. He followed another gain at the 15th with successive birdies at the 17th and 18th to secure a runaway win.

“This was definitely my best result this season, even if the eagle putt at the 18th missed,” the Sunshine Tour rookie gushed

“I drove the ball well, hit good iron shots and I hardly missed a fairway. I managed to hole nearly all of my putts inside 15 feet. The bogey at the sixth was only the third time I missed a green and the three-putt at the ninth was about the only mistake I made with the short stick in three rounds.”

The victory came at the most opportune time for Ritchie, who has a Big Easy tournament coming up at Glendower next week and then two Sunshine Tour events in KwaZulu-Natal.

“It’s going to be great going into those events with some confidence,” he said.

“It’s nice to show the guys at Sahara Sands that their backing is worth it. I’ve had some close calls, but I haven’t won anything since the IGT Winter Challenge in August last year. It felt good, though, to pour all the experience I gained in the last 12 months into this win.

“It’s the first time I led from the first round and kept the lead for three rounds and I’m thrilled with the outcome.”

Ritchie finished third at the Sunshine Tour’s Q-School and is currently ranked 88th after 14 starts.

All eight winners in the Race to Asian Q-School qualify for a share of the R350,000 IGT Tour sponsorship to compete in the Asian Tour Qualifying School early next year, but it’s a call Ritchie can’t make at this stage.

“The chance to go to Asia is a huge carrot, but if I break into the top 50 on the final Order of Merit, I will have full exemption for the Sunshine Tour,” he said.

“If that happens, I would rather give my spot to another young guy. If I don’t make into the top 70, though, I’m definitely going to Asia, because the experience alone will be fantastic.”

Meanwhile fellow Pretoria player Smith was nine strokes off the pace after a 74 in the first round.

The amateur vaulted into contention with a faultless 65 in the second round and duplicated his effort to vault to sole second on 12 under.

“Sometimes you play great golfer, but scores don’t come along, but in the last two days everything came together great,” the reigning SA Amateur Stroke Play champion said.

“I played great over the last two days and did everything right,” said the 20-year-old TuksSport Golf Academy member. “I hit solid putts, a few went in and a few stayed out. It’s been a long while since I have done that and hopefully this bodes well for the Southern Cape Open this weekend.”

FINAL RESULT

199 – JC Ritchie 65 67 67

204 – Jason Smith (AMA) 74 65 65

208 – NJ Arnoldi (AMA) 68 70 70, Hennie Du Plessis (AMA) 67 68 73

209 – Russel Franz 68 70 71

210 – Dayne Moore ZAM 71 70 69, Coert Groenewald 70 70 70, Brendan De Lange 69 68 73

211 – Francois Coetzee 77 66 68, Toto Thimba Jnr 70 70 71, CJ du Plessis 71 68 72

212 – Martin Rohwer (AMA) 75 70 67, Roberto Lupini 74 66 72

213 – Herman Minnie 73 67 73, Jacques Kruyswijk 70 70 73

214 – Rosswell Sinclair (AMA) 72 71 71, Bryn Flanagan (AMA) 76 68 70

215 – Ted Hendriks 71 72 72, Byron Garvie 71 71 73

216 – Rae Mackie 73 72 71, Ruan Conradie (AMA) 70 73 73, Conway Kunneke 73 69 74, Rupert Kaminski (AMA) 74 68 74, Tertius Van Den Berg 73 72 71, JC van Dommelen 73 69 74

217 – Pieter Kruger 73 73 71

218 – Zabastian De Jager (AMA) 74 70 74, Tyrone Ryan 73 71 74, James Searson 71 74 73, Jacquin Hess 77 69 72, Ryan Gosling 71 76 71, Werner Van Niekerk 73 75 70, Duane Keun 76 72 70

219 – Lean Boezaart 76 69 74, Jacques de Villiers 70 71 78

220 – Jason Froneman (AMA) 71 74 75, Terence Boardman 70 74 76, Desne van den Bergh 74 73 73, Jaco Prinsloo 76 72 72, DK Kim KOR 74 74 72, Hano van der Walt 77 72 71

221 – Leon Scheepers (AMA) 71 75 75, Kevin Rundle (AMA) 74 73 74, Derik Ferreira 75 72 74, Tyron McComb 76 74 71

222 – Wynand Dingle 80 70 72

223 – Ockert Strydom 73 75 75, Patrick Thompson 73 76 74, Ruan Huysamen NAM 72 78 73

224 – Divan Van Den Heever 76 73 75, Alana van Greuning 76 74 74, Phillip Kruse (AMA) 75 74 75

225 – Arthur Horne SZW 69 77 79, Christiaan Pretorius 75 73 77, Shika Letoaba 73 76 76

226 – Gideon Pienaar 75 74 77

227 – Niel Meyer (AMA) 80 69 78

228 – Michael Van Hoeck (AMA) 75 75 78

229 – Pierre Viviers 71 76 82

235 – Quintin Crause (AMA) 77 73 85

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