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5th September 2018 | Big Easy Tour

Barker bursts to front at Big Easy IGT #9

Randpark’s Kyle Barker recovered from a mid-round slump to line up a first Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour victory in the ninth event of the season on Tuesday.

Barker was two off the pace after an opening two-under 70 at Kyalami Country Club, but flew straight to the top of the leaderboard with a stirring start of five consecutive birdies.

He let the field back in with a double bogey at seven and two further drops at eight and 11, but rallied with an eagle at the par five 13th and birdies at 15 and 16 for a five-under-par 67 to take back pole position on seven-under.

Barker leads by one shot from Pretoria rookie Ruan Korb, Sunshine Tour campaigner Jason Smith and Paul Boshoff, already a Big Easy IGT winner, with Heinrich Bruiners from the Gary Player School of 2017/2018 and English veteran Neil Cheetham a further stroke adrift.

Barker celebrated his first success on the IGT Challenge when he partnered Dylan Mostert to victory in the Wanderers Betterball Challenge in March 2017.

The 20-year-old GolfProWorx player signalled that he ready to challenge for his own silverware on the country’s premier golf development circuit after he banked a maiden pro victory on the Mena Tour in October.

Six months passed, though, before he bagged his second victory, beating Sunshine Tour winner JC Ritchie in the season-opener at Killarney Country Club.

A fortnight later, Barker was in ascendancy again when the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour launched in April, but this time he was bested by Mostert, who won the first event at Silver Lakes Country Club.

Coming off a top 10 finish in the Big Easy IGT at Wingate Park last week, Barker is 21st in the Road to Sunshine he hopes he can take it to the finish line on Wednesday.

“If I putt the way I did today and strike the ball a bit better, I would back myself,” said Barker. “A win would propel me into the top 10 and that’s where I aim to be at the end of the season to get a card for the Sunshine Tour.

“I made an amazing start with the five birdies in a row. I didn’t hit it all that close, but the putter was on fire and I was holing everything. Unfortunately I pulled my drive left at eight into the trees. I punched out over the green, punched my third over the green, as well, and missed the up-and-down for bogey. “At the eighth, I missed the fairway left and I was dead behind the trees. The same thing happened at 11, where I had to out again and try to up-and-down from 110 metres. But I made a great putt to save par on 12, and that swung the momentum.

“I smashed my drive down the middle at 13 and parked a 6-iron from 205 metres out five feet from the hole and boxed the putt. I hit two great approaches at 15 and 16 to set up birdies. I hit sand-wedge from 120 metres to 12 foot at 16 and a pitching wedge to 15 foot at 16.

“The putter was definitely the hero and hopefully I can get it red-hot in the final round. But I’ll need to strike the ball better, too, with those guys chasing. It’s going to be a humdinger.”