Russel Franz and Hennie Du Plessis shot golf’s magic number in the final round of the IGT Tour’s GMC Doubles to claim a one stroke victory at Zwartkop Country Club on Wednesday. The GFG Academy duo fired 11 birdies for a cool 59 to edge out Danie Van Tonder and his Betterball partner Justin Turner to claim the R20,000 spoils with a winning score of 31 under par. Van Tonder and Turner finished with four birdies on the trot for a 59 of their own and set the clubhouse target at 30 under.
Overnight leaders Norman Beggs and Sweden’s Johnnathan Agren started eagle-birdie-birdie-eagle to protect their one stroke edge, but the GFG twosome also bolted from the blocks. They birdied the first two holes, collected another brace at four and five and reeled in more gains at seven and nine to reach the turn in six under. However, Franz and Du Plessis have travelled and practiced since they graduated the IGT Tour for the Sunshine Tour in 2014 and used their knowledge of each other’s games to dovetail to perfection on the back nine.
They pulled clear of the field with a birdie hat-trick at 11, 12 and 13 and sealed their victory when they closed with another trio of birdies. Du Plessis says: ‘Russel hits it way longer than me, so we worked out a strategy for the final round. I took the first tee shots and made sure I kept it in the fairway, while he took a more aggressive approach and smashed his drives and it paid off for us. I hit it to give at the first and made the birdie and he holed a six-footer at the second for our next birdie. I made the two birdies at four and five and he boxed a 25-footer for birdie at seven. I knocked in a 15-footer at nine to take us to six under. On the back nine, I birdied 11, 12, 16 and 17 and Russel made the birdies at 13 and 18. We really enjoyed ourselves out there this week and I think Dale Hayes deserves huge praise for introducing this format to the IGT Tour. It was a great change of pace from the regular stroke play events and it got really, really competitive out there.’ Van Tonder, who fired a 10-under-par 61 to secure the runner-up finish for his team, agreed.
The three-time Sunshine Tour winner says: ‘This was a really awesome tournament and it’s a pity we don’t do this more often. The format allows you much more freedom and you could go for shots you wouldn’t dare go for in regular stroke play events. There was a lot of banter out there and the guys were riling each other, but we had so much fun throughout. Hats off to Russel and Hennie for taking it in the end.’ SA golfing icon Hayes was very pleased to hear that his event got the seal of approval from the field. Hayes says: ‘When I approached Cois (Du Plooy / IGT Tour commissioner) with the idea of hosting three events, I told him I wanted to host a regular stroke play event, a match play event and a Betterball event. We used to have match play and Betterball events on the Sunshine Tour and they were hugely popular and I am really delighted that the guys enjoyed this one so much. It makes a nice change for the players and they get to have some fun, which was our aim. I also very pleased to hear the players are looking forward to the match play event, because that also promises to be really exciting.’
(All players RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA)
182 – Russel Franz & Hennie Du Plessis 60 63 59
183 – Jared Harvey & Danie Van Tonder 60 64 59
186 – Antonio Rosado POR & David Ashley ENG 61 63 62; Jaco Prinsloo & JC Ritchie 61 62 63; Norman Beggs & Johnathan Agren SWE 61 61 64
187 – Roux Jeffery NAM & Ruan Huysamen NAM 62 63 82; Justin Turner & Anton Haig 63 60 64
190 – CJ Levey & CJ du Plessis 64 63 63
Photo credit: CJ du Plooy