19th July 2016 | Big Easy IGT Golf

Venter gives chase at Zwartkop Challenge

ZwartkopChallenge_Rnd1_AlbertVenter(PHOTO – Albert Venter; credit IGT Tour)

TSHWANE, 19 July 2016 – Ockie Strydom demonstrated why he is currently the IGT Tour’s dominant force when he took charge of the Zwartkop Challenge on opening day, but the Kempton Park pro could come under pressure from unheralded Centurion amateur Albert Venter in Tuesday’s second round at Zwartkop Country Club.

Gunning for a fifth consecutive victory this season, Strydom extended his recent run of fine form to move into contention once again with a flawless eight-under-par 63 to finish one shot clear of the amateur.

However, the Sunshine Tour campaigner was in Venter’s shadow for most of the round.

Venter reeled in five birdies on the front nine to turn five under and picked up two more at 10 and 13 to move three shots clear of the first round leader.

“I went with driver at 14 when I should have hit two-iron and put myself into trouble in the trees,” said the Golf RSA National Squad player, who lost the lead after back-to-back bogeys at 14 and 15.

“I hit it in the right greenside bunker at 15 and played a good trap shot, but the ball caught in the fringe and stopped short and I missed the putt to save par.”

The HPC Tuks Golf Academies student boxed a birdie putt at 16 to get within two of Strydom and narrowly missed an eight-footer for eagle at the final hole to grab a share of the lead.

“I was a little mad at myself for about 30 seconds, but what’s done is done; there is no point wasting energy on something you can’t change,” Venter said. “I’m in contention and that’s what I set out to achieve, so I choose to look at the positives. I hit a lot of greens in regulation and I only had 26 putts and that’s a great start in my book.”

Venter won the Eastern Province Open late in 2014 and vaulted to third in the South African Golf Association’s Open Amateur rankings after victories in the African Amateur Stroke Play Championship and the Western Province Amateur Stroke Play.

“I missed the cut in one and posted ties for 33rd and 35th in the other two when I played the IGT Tour in June last year, so this week is all about testing myself and measuring my improvement,” Venter said.

“We just got back from a six week Tour to the United Kingdom with the Golf RSA National Squad. I played some of my best golf in the UK, but when you get the bad side of the weather, it’s really bad – just ask those poor guys who played Royal Troon at The Open on Friday.

“I was so relieved that I beat the storms to make the weekend in the Brabazon Trophy and that’s why I teed it up this week. I gained a huge amount of experience from the trip to the UK and I am putting it to the test against seasoned pros. It’s a nice start and now I just need to build on it.”

Straight-hitting Strydom found 15 greens in regulation and nailed eight birdies and his bogey-free run included four birdies on the front nine, another gain at the par four 13th and a trio of birdies over the closing holes.

“It was really down to some accurate irons and a hot putter,” said the GFG Academy player, who is shooting for five in a row and a record 12th title on the country’s premier development Tour.

“During this long winter break, the plan was to work with Graeme (Francis/coach) on establishing processes on the scores that can help me to score lower and more consistently low rounds on the Sunshine Tour.

“All that work is showing results. The last two tournaments were really solid. Everyone knows golf is a confidence game and to see the pay-off feeds the confidence and it reflects in the way you play.”

Strydom was impressed with Venter’s performance and even disappointed that the young gun missed the eagle chance to tie him for the lead.

“The IGT Tour is where I cut my teeth and it’s a great platform for guys like Albert,” he said.

“Your game always needs to move to the next level and this is great for him. He did really well to recover after the bogeys to get back in contention and that experience just adds to the depth of his game. We may have left the amateur circuit, but we still love to watch these guys rise through the ranks. I hope he is still there tomorrow so we can make a fist of it in the final round.”

Meanwhile Damien Naicker also hopes to continue his affinity with Zwartkop.

The recent Zwartkop Match Play champion opened with a five-under-par 66 and will start the second round three off the pace in a three-way tie with Francesca Cuturi and Altaaf Bux.

Fellow Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigners Carrie Park (69) and Lejan Lewthwaite (70) tied for 13th and 20th respectively.

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