Jean-Paul into the big league

Jean-Paul Strydom played his way into the first of 10 spots available at the Joburg Open when he shot a bogey-free 64 at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club on Monday.

“Shooting 64 to get in really opened my eyes. If I’ve done it once, I can do it again. I didn’t really get my hopes up, because I knew it would be tough to get in, so this is a real dream come true,” he said.

Fresh out of Qualifying School, Strydom failed to make it into the season-opening Telkom PGA Pro-Am, which means the first professional tournament he’ll compete in is a €1,300 000, co-sanctioned affair.

“I’ve made it into one of the biggest tournaments in Africa! I’m going to be hitting balls next to guys like Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace on the range, and maybe I’ll get to play alongside them on one of the days,” he said.

The 21-year-old began with a quick birdie at the 10th, which he followed with a birdie at the 15th to turn at two-under. He continued at a comfortable pace, following a birdie at the second with a run of four straight pars.

But from the seventh the warmup was over – his caddie told him that they needed more birdies, and Strydom obliged. He opened the floodgates with a pair of birdies at seven and eight and capped off the round with an eagle at the ninth, which came courtesy of a superb seven-iron from 195 metres, which he stopped a foot from the pin.

A stroke back was fellow rookie Brandon Detweiler, who shared second with Divan Gerber, Alan McLean and Heinrich Bruiners.

Tied for sixth were Johan de Beer, Italy’s Francesco Laporta and England’s Ross McGowan, who all shot 66. Nine payers finished on four-under-par, which meant a playoff for the two final spots. Wayne Westner and Dean O’Riley emerged triumphant, claiming the last two spots.

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