Johan wins mental battle at Zwartkops

One of the bigger upsets during round one of ISPS Handa Match Play tournament was Johan Bekker’s 2&1 victory over 30th-ranked Peter Karmis at Zwartkop Country Club on Tuesday.

“It was a tough match,” said Bekker. “I’ve always looked at match play as a totally different game, but I had a game plan and it worked. You’ve just got to get through the bad patches and keep going.”

After a mistake at the second, Bekker got a win at the seventh to get back to all-square. He went on to win at eight and nine, but the match soon returned to all-square when Karmis won the 10th and 12th. Bekker eventually earned a hard-fought victory with wins at 16th and 17th.

“On the first I missed a short putt to win the hole. That flustered me a bit, but I won a hole at the seventh and got back to square. It was more a mental battle than anything else, and I’m proud of the way I stuck it out. The last two holes I hit great shots. On the 17th I hit it about a metre-and-a-half away from the pin, into wind from the right,” Bekker said.

The 27-year-old has been on tour for two years, and carried fresh memories of his amateur success under match play format. He drew on those experiences over the round.

“I played match play for South Africa as an amateur and did well. I played inter-provincials eight times, and I had a couple of big wins, so I’m used to match play. You have to play your own game, not the player,” he said.

The Pretoria resident was excited about the format and the course. He’s been working with coach Quinton van den Berg and that’s not only improved his game, but also his confidence.

“This is a great tournament, and the course has a lot of history,” said Bekker. “The course is looking good – I think they did a magnificent job. I played here three weeks ago, and I couldn’t believe how good it looked today.

“My iron play is good, I just need to keep it in play with my driver. I hit a couple of three-woods off the tee today, which I thought was better than bombing out on a few holes with driver. I’ve got a two-year plan to get my game into shape. It’s good to see these things coming around for me.”

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