Bekker’s bunker work blasts him into BMG Classic contention

Johan Bekker’s bunker practice paid off as he holed out from the sand to eagle the 15th on Saturday on his way to a share of second after the second round of the R600,000 BMG Classic at Glendower Golf Club.

“I’ve been practicing my bunker shots a lot with my coach Hendrik Buhrmann,” said Bekker, “and this one just seemed to suit my eye.”

He carded a second-round 70 to move to five-under 139 for the tournament, one stroke behind leader Bradford Vaughan as the 54-hole tournament heads into its final day.

He had two bogeys and two birdies in his round, and it was the birdie on the third which caught the eye: “That came after I hit a great four-iron right into the wind,” he said. “And the greens here are great. If you roll the putts right, it’s always going to go in.”

The 26-year-old Bekker has had a quiet start to his professional career: He has just three paydays in 17 tournaments, but three top-15 performances on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage have boosted his confidence.

“I led the Suncoast Classic in the first round,” he said, “and that has made me feel more comfortable here.” He slipped to an 87 in the second round last week after his opening 67, but he held firm in blustery conditions on the 6,914-metre Glendower layout to set up a shot at victory.

Vaughan followed up his opening 68 with a battling 70 which gave him a one-stroke advantage at the top of the leaderboard.

Joining Bekker at five-under was another player who found the Big Easy Tour helped his cause on the Sunshine Tour: Ockie Strydom carded a fine five-under-par 67 to climb to second and a place in the final grouping in the final round.

“I’m pleased to have put a round like that together,” said Strydom, who had four top-10s on the nursery tour and another in the Tour Championship.

Bekker and Strydom held a one-stroke edge over Shaun Norris in fourth place, while a big group of seven players shared fifth at three-under for the tournament.

In that group was defending champion Brandon Pieters, who kept himself in the hunt with a gritty 72, but the man he beat in a playoff to take the title last year, Ben Mannix, missed the cut as he slumped to a 78 in the second round.

Also on three-under was rookie Allan Versfeld: The leader of the 2011 Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year race continued his superb recent form with the best round of the day. His six-under-par 66 included eight birdies and two bogeys.

Last week’s Suncoast Classic champion Darren Fichardt was also on three-under at the cut, and Jean Hugo, who has won three titles on the tour this year, was on two-under and in contention.

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