Chilled Wallie rides wave to Match Play quarters

You wouldn’t peg Wallie Coetsee as a laid-back Jefferys Bay dude, but since he’s moved to the surfing paradise, his golf game has improved so much that he finds himself in the quarter-finals of the ISPS Handa South African Match Play Championship.

He defeated Ockie Strydom 5&4 in the round of 16 at Zwartkop Country Club on Friday in the biggest victory of the round, and it was his best performance of the week since his opening 1-up victory back on Tuesday.

“I’ve worked hard since I moved to Jefferys Bay about four months ago,” he said. “We play a lot – about six rounds a week – and it’s nice to be a full-time professional again after I worked for about seven years in the painting business.”

The 40-year-old turned professional in 1992 as a 20-year-old, and his sole Sunshine Tour victory came in 1997 when he won the FNB Namibia Open.

That win came, he believes, because of the resemblance play in that final round had to the way match play is played: “We played that in two-balls,” he remembered, “and I like to play fast, to get to my ball and hit it and be confident.”

That kind of confidence showed as he ran up a three-hole lead after five, increased it to four around the turn, and wrapped it all up by the 14th.

Top seed Darren Fichardt was another player who has seemed to be getting better and better through the week after 1-up victories in his opening matches against determined opponents. He beat Colin Nel 4&3 to advance to a quarter-final meeting with Doug McGuigan.

“I made quite a few birdies and placed a lot of pressure on Colin from the start,” he said. “He managed to get it from 3-down to 1-down through nine, but then I threw two birdies at him to get back to 3-up. Then he made bogey on 12, and I made birdie on 13, which made it difficult for him to come back.”

Eighth seed McGuigan says he is lucky to be in the quarters after a narrow escape in the opening round against Johan du Buisson, but there was no luck involved in his 3&2 defeat of ninth seed Tyrone Ferreira.

“I’ve played fantastically the last two days,” said McGuigan. “Today, I was 2-up quite early on, and I drove ball well all day. And if you do that, you usually put a lot of pressure on your opponent. I went bogey-free as well and if you don’t make any mistakes, it’s even tougher on your opponent.”

Ferreira’s younger brother Steven won through with a 2&1 win over Divan van den Heever, while PH McIntyre went to the 19th hole before he could shake off veteran Hendrik Buhrmann.

Theunis Spangenberg halted the run of Keenan Davidse with a 2-up win, Merrick Bremner used his long hitting to shut out qualifier Jared Harvey 3&2, and sixth seed Jaco Ahlers played a sublime sand trap shot on 18 to hold off Louis Moolman 1-up.

“I can’t believe the bunker shot I hit,” said Ahlers. “It nearly went in, so I was pretty chuffed with that.”

He will be up against Coetsee in the quarters, and the Jeffreys Bay resident is confident about all aspects of his game: “My game is great overall. I think I’ve missed two fairways all week, my iron shots are unbelievable, and I’m happy with my putting.”

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