McKain claims maiden Big Easy title at Waterkloof
Benoni’s Reece McKain overturned a three-shot deficit on Thursday to claim a one-stroke victory for his maiden Altron Big Easy Tour title after he carded a final-round 70 to total 11-under-par at Waterkloof Golf Club.
It was a dramatic turn of events as both Royal Cape Golf Club’s Samuel Simpson and the man who had led proceedings here for the first 36 holes, Philip Geerts, pushed hard for the win coming down the final stretch. Conner McKenzie was also in the mix in the early stages of the round, even though he would slip down to finish fourth in Pretoria this week.
“I think for me the turning point of my round was the eighth hole,” said McKain, reflecting on the moments he thought were key to his triumph this week. “I hit it in the water there, after making birdie on the seventh; now I’m looking at a double in the face on the tight, right flag – a nicely tucked flag. So, I thought ‘let me just drop it way back – 65 – I like that number, and I just hit a perfect golf shot and the ball spun back into the hole for a nice little hole-out. That was great momentum.”
McKain started his round with a bogey on but swiftly recovered with a birdie in the next hole. His joy was short-lived, however, as he dropped another shot on the par-four fifth. Again, and in a show of mental strength and grit, McKain capitalised with a birdie on the fifth and didn’t drop another shot until the 10th. He found joy once more when he birdied 12 and 14 before closing off with another birdie on the last.
“Last week I didn’t play as well at Dainfern,” McKain said after his championship-winning round. “The weather wasn’t great but it’s okay. I came here with a level head and just told myself to come out and play some golf. I’ve been working on a lot of patience and that proved to work this week. I was three shots back, if I’m not mistaken, and the wind was blowing everywhere.
“Even the guys that were teeing off the 10th tee were still in contention, in a way, so I just tried to keep the ball in play and I putted nicely and that saved me today. I also made a great putt on 18. I didn’t really read it because I have played here so much and I knew it was going a little bit to the left. I kept my head down and tried to breathe nicely and it went in with a bit of pace. Luckily the pin was in.
“I love the greens here. It’s such a true roll when you putt – end over end. You have to read the right line. This is a forgiving golf course in a way that you can just step up and hit a driver. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. so, I’m happy that I was hitting my driver well this week.”
McKain turned pro last year in April and earned his Altron Big Easy Tour playing privileges after failing to secure a Sunshine Tour card at Qualifying School where he fell short of the top 25. In his rookie season on this Sunshine Tour development circuit, things were never going to be easy for McKain. The quality of golf is of such high quality that it is not a rare phenomenon to compete against multiple Sunshine Tour winners.
McKain knows what a win like this means in his young career.
“Coming into this week’s tournament after last week’s missed cut, I think I was 70th on the Order of Merit,” he said. “So, this win does major things for me. I think it puts me inside the top 30 as well and that’s the main goal; try and get to the final stage of Q-School, or even a Sunshine Tour card now. So, I’m glad I was able to play well and get it done.”
“I pulled my driver a bit left into the rough and luckily I found a gap and then I just went with a full 8-iron and it was perfect,” said Ladner of his eagle on 18. “It’s always nice to finish with an eagle. But I drove the ball well today and just stayed patient because it’s never easy to start a round and stop and start again. I was patient – and that’s my biggest strength: just staying in the moment and not getting frustrated by some things. Overall, I think I played well today.”
McKain has now moved up to 20th on the Order of Merit and within the top 50 players eligible to play The Play-Offs at Centurion Country Club in a couple of weeks from now. The 10th tournament of the Altron Big Easy Tour will be played at Benoni Country Club where McKain is a familiar figure and he will hope to make it back-to-back wins at his home course.
Geerts maintains Waterkloof lead ahead of final round
Philip Geerts will take a slender one-shot lead into the final round of the Altron Big Easy Tour event at Waterkloof Golf Club, thanks to a four-under 68 second round which took his total to 12-under on Wednesday.
Having played many times here as a kid, Geerts used his knowledge of this track to good effect on moving day, making six birdies and two bogeys to pull a shot clear of the chasing Werner Deyzel.
“I’ve been playing here since I was a child and I know this course better than most courses I have played,” revealed Geerts. “But, beyond that, I think I have stuck to my game plan pretty well. I have played well this week and my caddie and I have been feeling good on the course. As I said yesterday, the key here is staying calm and in the moment and I think I did that very well today.
“It seemed to me that they tried to set the course up to be as difficult as possible and the rough is quite thick around the greens and they put some really tough pin positions. That makes things difficult but you always want to be on the right side of the hole because I have seen players hit great shots in but still make bogeys. So, a solid game plan is the key around here; to know where to miss it and those kinds of things. Otherwise, the course is very generous off the tee.”
Happy as Geerts is with his performance here after 36 holes, he is fully aware that with the quality of the field in this week’s tournament, a win will not be handed to him on a silver platter. Deyzel has already tasted victory this season and will want to make it two wins this season. And, trailing by just one shot ahead of the final round, he will fancy his chances.
“I’m very excited to get going tomorrow because I have not been in this position for a while,” said Geerts of the final round. “But I have been playing good golf. I just feel like I have not been capitalising on the chances I’ve created for myself in tournaments. It feels like this week things are coming together.
“I know I can’t get too excited. I want to try and stay calm and keep it shot-by-shot and see what happens in the end.”
Deyzel’s 65 on day two catapulted him to second on 11-under and, he too, is familiar with this golf course.
“I was a member here when I was younger and my dad still is,” Deyzel stated, “and I know the greens here well. The greens are receptive but it was tough for me today with the tricky flags because you’d hit a perfect shot and the ball spins back. So, I’m happy I managed to get a low one.
“Today I was hitting it just as well as I did yesterday,” Deyzel said, “but, I still missed some short putts. So, tomorrow I will have to keep my game simple; hit greens and make putts. The experience I have around the greens here helps and I hope I can get another low one tomorrow.”
Deyzel is a shot clear of Conner McKenzie following the latter’s near-perfect 66 while Reece McKain and Samuel Simpson are a short further on nine-under for the week. They share the fourth spot.
Veteran campaigner Andrew McLardy rolled back the years with a blemish-free 65 to get to eight-under and in a share of sixth. McLardy will relish the opportunity to challenge for honours once more, having claimed victories on the Sunshine Tour before.
This 54-hole event is the ninth tournament of the regular season of the Sunshine Tour feeder circuit.
Geerts, Simpson take early lead at weather-affected WaterkloofItalian Philip Geerts shot an eventful eight-under-par 64 in the opening round of the ninth tournament of the Altron Big Easy Tour to share the first-round lead by two strokes at Waterkloof Golf Club on Tuesday. The round had to be suspended on a few occasions owing to inclement weather in the Capital. Still, even with those delays, Geerts was able to weave together a solid round to start this tournament. When it was evident that the bad weather was not letting up, play was eventually suspended, and this was before Simpson could finish his opening round on Tuesday. “It kills the momentum a bit,” said Geerts of the weather-forced delays experienced on day one. “They suspended play just after I had gone eagle-birdie and I was a little bit bummed. But the key is to stay in the moment as much as you can. “But, I have been putting in a lot of hard work lately and I felt like everything flowed nicely today. It’s wet out there and the course is playing a little bit longer than usual but it’s still not playing that long. The greens are rolling amazingly and if you can get the putter rolling – which is what I did the whole day – you will score well. “This whole season I have been struggling with my putter – a little bit inconsistent. But today, it felt like all the hard work is paying off. I really think the key to playing well around here is to putt well.” His round consisted of six birdies, two dropped shots and a brace of eagles. Simpson had five birdies, two eagles and one dropped shot on his way to a share of the top spot. “Yesterday was a long day,” Simpson noted after he finished his round in Wednesday. “I got here at 10 o’clock and ended teeing off at half-past four. It was difficult to start the whole routine again but I played nicely for the first eight holes despite the wind and the thunder showers. I was one-under after eight and then I came out this morning and got going again. “I was just on the right side of the 18th, my ninth hole, for my tee shot and I hit an unbelievable 9-iron to about five feet and made the putt to start with an eagle today. I was in a really good mood going onto the first which was my 10th hole. I had struggled with my swing a bit at the beginning of the tournament but it felt like I found something on the back.” Also producing a brilliant round of golf on day one was Travis Ladner whose six-under-par 66 placed him in second position and two shots off the lead. The soft-spoken Ladner who plays out of Eagle Canyon Country Club made five birdies, an eagle and a solitary bogey en route to his 66. “I pulled my driver a bit left into the rough and luckily I found a gap and then I just went with a full 8-iron and it was perfect,” said Ladner of his eagle on 18. “It’s always nice to finish with an eagle. But I drove the ball well today and just stayed patient because it’s never easy to start a round and stop and start again. I was patient – and that’s my biggest strength: just staying in the moment and not getting frustrated by some things. Overall, I think I played well today.” LB Boshoff, Calum Mowat, American Thomas Strandemo and Ruan Conradie produced respective rounds of five-under 67 to share fourth while Thabiso Ngcobo, Werner Deyzel, Conner McKenzie, Xander Basson, Warwick Purchase, Rheece McKain, Dylan O’Leary and and Englishman Joe Knox share the eighth spot after shooting 68s on day one.
Thimba Jr claims emphatic victory at DainfernToto Thimba Jnr returned to the Sunshine Tour winner’s circle in emphatic fashion when he claimed a wire-to-wire victory in the Altron Big Easy Tour’s eighth tournament held at Dainfern Golf Estate on Thursday. The Silver Lakes Country Club player last tasted victory on any Sunshine Tour-sanctioned event five years ago in the KCB Karen Masters in Kenya. Since then, Thimba Jnr has shown glimpses of the brilliant golfer many touted him to be. This week and in testing weather conditions, Thimba’s star shone once more. Bringing a three-stroke lead into the final round after rounds of 61 and 66, Thimba Jnr knew that he had a chance for a win here and his final-round six-under-par 66 was enough to hand him a two-shot win over Ruan de Smidt. “We are going to have a big lunch today,” mused Thimba Jr. “I have missed the feeling of winning a golf tournament. I played well this week; it was a phenomenal week for me. It was not easy today, though, because of the rain. I mean, the first nine holes were difficult but I kept calm and I was very cool under pressure. “I only made one mistake today and that was on the eighth where I made a six. I think I hit my 6-iron into the water but I kept my cool and still played solidly after that. I had missed winning because the last time I won a tournament was about five years ago. So, to win again is special because it tells me that I still have what it takes. And, as I said, I didn’t go anywhere during the Christmas break and I kept working on my game. Now it is paying off.” He made three birdies on the front nine and those were accompanied by that solitary drop on eight. Coming home and after the turn, Thimba Jnr went on a three-birdie run from 11 through 14 while masterfully keeping the big numbers off his card. He then finished with a birdie on the par-five 18th to seal a convincing win against a really strong field, a testimony to his strong mentality. “I have worked hard to get my game back to where it is,” he said, “and I was very strong, mentally. That is one of my strongest aspects; my mindset. I did a lot of work in the gym and I have been on a healthy diet and I think it helped. Everything just clicked this week.” It was not an easy ride for Thimba Jr. De Smidt was on top of his game and his 64 in the final round proved it. It was not enough, however, to hand the Krugersdorp Golf Club player an early victory in 2024. A seasoned campaigner in his own right, and despite wanting the victory for himself, De Smidt will be satisfied with his efforts in this first tournament of the new year. As for Thimba Jnr, he will now look ahead with renewed confidence knowing that he is still very much capable of winning against a tough field and in difficult conditions. The next event on this Sunshine Tour development circuit will be held at Waterkloof Golf Club next week.
Thimba Jnr tightens grip on Dainfern leadToto Thimba Jnr backed up his opening round of 61 with an equally impressive six-under-par 66 on day two of the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament held at Dainfern Golf Estate to take his total to 17-under and three shots clear of the field ahead of the final round. “It feels like I’m playing the kind of golf I know I can play; solid golf,” said Thimba Jnr after his second-bogey-free round here at Dainfern. “I’m driving it really well and when I find a bit of trouble, I am able to play myself out of it. Today, I struggled with the putter on the back but could still make the important putts. “I missed a lot of short putts because I struggled reading the greens. Other than that, I think I played solid golf and hit the golf ball very well. So, as I said, this week kind of reminded me of my good days when I was playing good golf. I’m glad I am playing well again and I feel like it will be a good week this week.” Thimba Jnr started his second round from the 10th tee and made eight straight pars and a solitary birdie. Coming home, the Silver Lakes Country Club player, Thimba Jnr, got things going. He made three birdies from the second – his 12th hole – through the fourth. And then an eagle on the par-five eighth before closing off with a par. While Thimba Jnr may be eyeing his first Sunshine Tour win since 2019, he is aware of the chasing pack led by Henning du Plooy whose near-perfect 66 catapulted him to 14-under-par and three shots off the pace. “I have played very well so far this week,” said Du Plooy, “I have been hitting the ball solidly and the putter has been working. I am very excited to be challenging this week. My mental game has been very good this week and I think I have managed the golf course well. The key for me has been keeping the ball in play because things get tricky if you miss a lot of fairways. “The greens here are so receptive and soft. I can play a bit more aggressively and attack a few more pins but as long as you keep it in play off the tee, you can score well. This is not a very long golf course. The final round is going to be exciting because you can see there are players with some brilliant scores this week. But, I can only concentrate on what I can do and not what everyone else is doing.” Mauritius’ Pierre Pellegrin and veteran campaigner Ruan de Smidt share the third spot on 13-under-par for the week while young sensation Samuel Simpson of Royal Cape Golf Club, along with GolfRSA amateur, Oliver Goldhill and Fancourt’s Noel Anderson share the fifth position on 12-under-par. Yurav Premlal, Warwick Purchase, Leon Vorster and fourth-ranked amateur Pascal Gunther make up the top 10 leading players on a tournament total of 11-under-par.
Thimba Jnr shoots 61 to lead at DainfernToto Thimba Jnr made two eagles and seven birdies on his way to a bogey-free round of 11-under-par 61 on day one of the eighth Altron Big Easy Tour event at Dainfern Golf Estate on Tuesday. The 2019 KCB Karen Masters champion got off to a flying start in this first tournament of the new year; going five-under on the front nine, thanks to a pair of eagles and a birdie on that stretch. Thimba Jnr, who plays out of Silver Lakes Country Club, did not relent on the homeward nine and made six birdies for a 61. He holds a three-shot lead over the trio of Henning du Plooy, Noel Anderson and Leon Vorster who share the second spot on eight-under after the first day’s outing. “I have worked so hard this December after we returned from Mauritius,” stated Thimba Jnr. “I did a lot of training in the gym and mentally, I am very strong. Lost some weight. I drove it well today but I think I putted really well too. I found the putter I used as an amateur and started using it in Mauritius and it was okay. But, today, it felt good. I read the greens well. “I am preparing myself for some of the big events that are coming up and to start a new year and a tournament this way is huge for my confidence. I feel like I am beginning to play solid golf again and I just want to keep the momentum.” Anderson attributed his brilliant round at Dainfern to a change of strategy. The Fancourt player says his position on the Order of Merit (81st) required that he change tactics if he is to move up the rankings before the season ends. “I putted quite nicely today and that is what I have been struggling with during the season,” said Noel of his opening round at Dainfern. “I am glad it’s reflecting on the score. I didn’t make a lot of mistakes and that’s why I didn’t make any bogeys today. “The greens are big here, so I could afford to come onto the greens with some longer clubs. I was a little aggressive today and I think I will do the same tomorrow because that’s what has been holding me back. I feel like I have been playing too tentatively and playing away from the flag and just trying to make cuts. “But, the truth is that I am in a position on the Order of Merit where I need a win or a second place. My mentality now is just to go for it because the season is coming to an end and I must improve my position on the order of merit.” Amateur, Pascal Gunther and Paul Boshoff share the fifth spot on the leaderboard after respective rounds of 65. Sabelo Majola, Callum Mowat, Warwick Purchase and Gregory McKay all shot 66s to tie the ninth position while Jastice Mashego, Werner Deyzel, Slade Pickering, Ruan de Smidt, Marthin Scheepers and Andrew McLardy signed for rounds of 67 to share the 10th spot.
Big Easy Tour resumes as Moore targets glory
The Sunshine Tour’s Altron Big Easy Tour resumes this week following the Christmas break and the first tournament of the new year gets underway at Dainfern Golf Estate on Tuesday.
This 54-hole event is the eighth tournament of the season and marks an important juncture for most players as the season draws closer to its end. Among those players will be Zambia’s Dayne Moore who, on 399.79 points, is the current leader of the Order of Merit.
The 31-year-old representative of Ndola Golf Club has been in scintillating form on the Altron Big Easy Tour this term, making six cuts from the seven tournaments he has played. His only missed-cut was in the fourth tournament of the season which was played at Huddle Park Golf Club in August last year.
While Moore is yet to claim a win on this Sunshine Tour development circuit, the big-hitting Zambian has played well enough this season and his standing on the Order of Merit rankings proves it. Moore’s second-place finish at Blue Valley Golf Estate in November was his best result this season; heading into this week’s event, he will aim for a victory.
He will feel the pressure to produce good results at Dainfern as that first spot on the standings isn’t guaranteed. Samuel Simpson is his closest challenger and with a victory already under his belt in the current campaign, the Royal Cape Golf Club player will have the necessary confidence to try and unseat Moore from the summit.
As has been proven repeatedly on this Tour, winning is tough and with the calibre of the field at Dainfern this week, the challenge will be even greater. The field includes former Sunshine Tour winner Toto Thimba Jnr, Keegan Mclachlan, Ruan de Smidt, Gregory McKay and GOLFRSA No.1 Altin van der Merwe amongst others.
Van der Merwe is still high on confidence after claiming the Freddy Tait Cup as the leading amateur in the Investec South African Open Championship at Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate in November. He is joined by fellow amateurs Pascal Gunther, Oliver Goldhill, Tristan Leonard and Christopher Bagnall.