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15th June 2022 | Big Easy Tour

Hendler ‘fights’ his way to the top at Reading Country Club

Ricky Hendler said he had to fight his way to a one-under-par 70 second-round of the Altron Big Easy Tour event held at Reading Country Club to get to a tournament total of six-under and take a one-stroke lead over Jacquin Hess ahead of the final round.

Hendler was a shot adrift of Reinhardt Blaauw’s lead after round one, and on a cold and windy Tuesday in Alberton, south of Johannesburg, the left-handed golfer knew it would take more than just good golf to get himself into contention once more this season. Starting from the 10th, his eventful round was characterised by five birdies, a double-bogey, a triple-bogey, a bogey and an eagle as assumed the top spot on moving day.

“It was a bit of a mess, to begin with,” admitted Hendler after a gruelling round. “The spotter couldn’t find my ball on the first and I made a triple. But I fought really hard. I played some really good golf and some not-really-good golf but I am pretty confident coming in tomorrow. I’m coming to win.

“I fought hard today and tried to keep it together. The key is to avoid getting too angry when you make mistakes and when the wind takes your ball to the bushes. You want to keep it in play and fight as hard as you can. That’s what today was about.”

Hendler will be pleased with his effort in round two because, and not for the first time this season, he goes into the final round billed among the favourites to win here. His recent form includes two runners-up finishes on the Altron Big Easy Tour and a win at last week’s Bushveld Tour. Be that as it may, however, the Dainfern Golf Club member will have it all to do when the final round tees of here.

The chasing pack is led by the 2017 Altron Big Easy Tour Order of Merit winner, Jacquin Hess, whose three-under 68 score shot him to second on the leaderboard and a single shot off Hendler’s lead. Hess was three-under and bogey-free on the front nine as he charged for the summit but a bogey after the turn derailed his progress. He recovered swiftly after that and made birdies on 12 and 15, although he would go on to drop another shot on the 16th which denied him a share of the lead with Hendler.

“The conditions were tough today,” Hess said. “This golf course is just as tough; tricky greens but the ball is rolling beautifully. You had to be accurate off the tee because the wind is up today I kept the ball in pay and committed to my shots.

“But I have a new Callaway driver in the bag and that thing is amazing. It’s the first time I’m using it and I found a lot of fairways, so I am happy. I think the difference between today and yesterday is that I birdied all the par-fives today. I’m just happy to be where I am right now and I feel good going to the final round. It’s going to be tough but every golf round on this Tour is tough.”

The Robertson Golf Club player, Hess, is not a stranger to tough competition but he will be aware of the danger Hendler possesses and will know that on a tough layout such as Reading Country Club, any error on Wednesday will be punished. On three-under and in a three-way share of the third spot lies Gregory McKay, Gerard Pepler and overnight leader, Blaauw.

The Big Easy Tour was founded in 2011 with support from Ernie Els and counts current international star Christiaan Bezuidenhout among its former Order of Merit winners.