21st July 2016 | Big Easy IGT Golf
Spacey seals sublime maiden pro win at Zwartkop
PHOTO – Matthew Spacey and tournament host Dale Hayes; credit CJ du Plooy)
TSHWANE, 21 July 2016 – A little mental note-to-self worked wonders as rookie Matthew Spacey converted a final round five-under-par 66 at Zwartkop Country Club into a maiden pro victory in the IGT Tour’s Zwartkop Challenge on Thursday.
Spacey grabbed a share of the lead with a pair of birdies at 16 and 17 and shrugged off the final day pressure to drain a four footer for birdie at the closing hole to seal a one shot triumph over Centurion amateur Albert Venter.
Victory – which came courtesy of his 54-hole total of 14-under-par 199 – was especially sweet for Spacey, who blew out in last week’s Waterkloof Challenge with a final round 79.
The 25-year-old Dainfern golfer credited his coaches at the HPC Tuks Golf Academy for giving him sound advice on the art of winning.
“I was really despondent after Waterkloof, but my coaches told me I just had to stay patient and wait for the win to happen, and it did,” said Spacey. “It’s easy to let frustration get the better of you, but patience definitely brings the best rewards.”
Seasoned Sunshine Tour pro Ockie Strydom started the final round with a four shot lead and chasing his fifth consecutive victory, but as his title bid unravelled with bogeys at three, five and six, the young trio of Venter, Altaaf Bux and Spacey were quick to pounce.
Bux reeled in birdies at three, three and eight and Venter joined him at nine under with a birdie at eight, while Spacey lagged one behind as the quartet reached the turn. Bux took the outright lead with a gain at 10, but immediately surrendered it to Venter with bogeys at 11 and 13. Venter took pole position at 10 under with a birdie at 13 and Spacey kept within a shot of the amateur with a gain at 14.
With three holes left, Spacey left a two-iron from 220 metres on the edge and two-putted for birdie at 16 and faded a well-timed eight-iron to two feet at 17 and boxed the putt for another birdie. He hit two-iron from the rough on the right to 30 feet into the par five closing hole and two-putted for victory.
Spacey said it was the brace of birdies early in the round that gave him the most satisfaction.
“The turning point was definitely the birdies at three and four,” he said. “Ockie had a couple of bogeys on the front nine that opened the door for us and those birdies put me in the chasing group.
“My only mistake was the bogey at two, but apart from that, I was on fire off the tees and my short game was solid. That helped my confidence a lot; overturning the bogey immediately started the momentum for me.”
Winning his second IGT Tour title was infinitely more rewarding for Spacey
“I won my first IGT Tour title in 2014 when I was still in the amateur ranks and it means a lot to finally win as a pro. After I failed to get my card at Q-School last December, my main aim has been to gain experience, to try to finish every tournament under par and to get myself into contention more often.
“I’ve had two runner-up finishes, a tie for third and a six top 10 finishes this season and that’s why the final round at Waterkloof left me so despondent. My ball striking has improved a lot and I’m getting used to the pressure at the front, but I struggled with distances at Waterkloof. I was too long or short on every hole.
“My coaches said to start this week with a clean page and I did. I think the secret this week was that I believed in myself and I just kept giving myself chances. I believe if I keep playing like this, I’ll get my card for the Sunshine Tour at the next Q-School.”
Meanwhile Venter followed a birdie at 16 with a bogey at the short 17th and parred the final hole for a 66 and sole second on 13 under.
Strydom dropped 12, but rallied with birdies at 16 and 18 for a 73 to finish in a tie for third at 12 under 202 with Bux, who notched birdies at 14, 16 and 18 for a 66. Recent Zwartkop Match Play champion Damian Naicker returned a 67 to finish alone in fifth on 202.