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11th April 2024 | Big Easy Tour

O’Leary leads as Hendler and Co. pile pressure in Irene

Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club’s Dylan O’Leary will take a slim lead into the final round of the Altron Big Easy Tour Play-Off on Friday, thanks to his second round of 68 which took his tournament total to nine-under par and a stroke clear of Ricky Hendler at Irene Country Club.

O’Leary was two shots off the pace set by Paul Boshoff after the opening round of this 54-hole event which is the second-last tournament of the current season. He shot 67 on day one and backed it up with a 68 on Thursday to take him to the summit of the leaderboard ahead of the final round.

“Today, I did the same things that I did yesterday,” said O’Leary, reflecting on his round. “But, I got off to a bit of a rocky start, and I know my psychologist will kill me but, my warm-up wasn’t great. But, I knew I could get it around and the putts fell in on the back nine. I had a really good back nine. I stayed in it.

“Tomorrow is going to be a tough day. Thoughts are going to wander; thoughts are going to come in tomorrow about winning or not winning, you know. But I must refocus myself on every shot and do the best that I can. The guys will come firing but they’re also in the same position that I am in. We will all go out there and whoever can hold it together the best, is probably going to take it.”

Leading the chase will be Dainfern Golf Estate’s Hendler whose brilliant back nine in the second round helped him five-under-par 67, and catapult him to second on the leaderboard. The left-hander was six-under-par 30 and bogey-free on that stretch.

“The front nine here is a bit tricky for me,” Hendler noted. “I think maybe it’s the shape I hit it as a left-handed golfer; I don’t know. And today the putts just didn’t drop. But, on the back nine, I made like two 10-footers in a row. My caddie was encouraging me a lot and we started to feel good about ourselves and said if we can shoot seven-under on the back nine, we can get into contention. We missed that target by one, but I’m still happy about how I played.

“I have been working very hard and I retained my Sunshine Tour card last week and that was awesome. So, I just came here this week to try and win and get some confidence back. But I am here to try to win this week and next week too, and get some confidence back because I know what I am capable of. So, I’m definitely going to come to play for a win tomorrow.”

Parys Golf and Country Estate’s Leon Vorster produced a scintillating 66 – the lowest round of the day – to get to seven under par and two off the pace.

“I putted well today,” said Vorster, “even though I feel like I left a few out there. I hope tomorrow they will come. The greens are really nice here, so I hope I can putt as well as I did today. I don’t like to dream ahead but a win for any of us here will mean a lot to that player. I’m lying 11th on the Order of Merit (top 12 earn Sunshine Tour cards for next season) and a good finish here and next week will help a lot. So, all of us here have different reasons to play well this week and at Blue Valley.”

Xander Basson, Christopher Long and overnight leader, Boshoff, share the fourth spot on the leaderboard on six-under for the tournament.

Only the top 50 players on the Altron Big Easy Tour Order of Merit are eligible for the Play-Off tournament which precedes the Final event of the season.