Pieter Moolman from Benoni Country Club held on to his overnight lead in the IGT Tour’s ERPM Challenge, but late bloomer Shaun Van Tonder is ready to charge in Wednesday’s final round at ERPM Golf Club. Rounds of 66 and 68 kept Moolman in pole position at 10 under 134, but Van Tonder made some serious strides with a six-under-par 66 to finish just one stroke off the pace. The Alberton golfer attended the South African Music Institute after matric, but instead of pursuing a career in music, he swapped his guitar for a set of golf clubs at the age of 21.
Hard work, determination and more hard work saw Van Tonder cut an 18 handicap to scratch in 13 months and two years later, he turned pro on the IGT Tour. The 27-year-old GFG Academy player says: ‘I compete in as many events as my full-time job allows. Ultimately the goal is to get a card on the Sunshine Tour, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I definitely don’t think that I’m too old to have these ambitions. You can do anything you put your mind to, providing you are willing to put in hard work and make sacrifices.’ Van Tonder enjoyed a flawless front nine and turned three under.
On the back nine he surrendered a shot at 15, but offset the damage with an eagle at the par five and birdies at 14 and 16. Van Tonder says: ‘When I got my handicap down to scratch, a really generous friend offered to sponsor me to compete for a full season on the South African Golf Association’s national circuit. I had to find a job when he emigrated, but I was lucky to land a position at Huddle Park Golf Club, where I could use the facilities after hours to work on my game. It’s really nice to be able to compete under tournament conditions on the IGT Tour, but still have the opportunity to work on your game. You want to be in a position that when you get your card for the Sunshine Tour, you are able to win qualifiers and take advantage at the co-sanctioned events and the bigger purse tournaments. Everyone dreams of being the number one golfer in the world, but it’s a process to get there and you need to give yourself the time to develop and improve. I need to get down to a 71 stroke average, otherwise there is no point in going for a card if you can’t really compete.’
Moolman knows all too well what a poor season can do to your game. The 24-year-old Ekurhuleni golfer says: ‘I had a four-year stint on the Sunshine Tour, but I had a less than stellar season last year and lost my card. I decided to make same swing changes last year, but I just didn’t perform. When I eventually decided to go back to my old swing, it was too late to save my season. I’m working with Neil Cheetham to polish my old swing and strengthen the other aspects of my game and playing the IGT Tour and the Big Easy Tour this year. Then I’ll give Q-School another go.’
Moolman dropped two shots on the front nine but notched birdies at 10, 13 and 17 to finish ahead of the pack. Moolman says: ‘It’s only my fourth event, but I’m pleased with the progress. I made cheques in my last two tournaments and I’m leading here at ERPM, so it feels like I’m moving in the right direction. The swing isn’t where I need it to be, but at least I’m hitting it where I’m aiming it!’ IGT Tour winner Coert Groenewald stayed in touch with a 69 to finish a further stroke back, while Garth Wolter’s 69 lifted him to fourth on 138.
SECOND ROUND SCORES
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified; amateurs indicated as (AMA)
134 – Pieter Moolman 66 68
135 – Shaun Van Tonder 69 66
136 – Coert Groenewald 67 69
138 – Garth Wolter 69 69
139 – Brendan Britten (NAM) 67 72, John McClean (NIR) 68 71
Photo credit: CJ du Plooy