O’Riley in Windhoek to close gap on Versfeld

It seems like an insurmountable obstacle, but Dean O’Riley will be taking aim at reducing the R218,000 gap between himself and rookie race leader Allan Versfeld at this week’s MTC Namibia PGA Championship.

O’Riley won the Freddie Tait trophy for the leading amateur at last year’s South African Open Championship, and Versfeld, by virtue of his share of seventh place in the Joburg Open, has got off to the kind of start in his professional career which makes him the target for all the other rookies in the field.

“It’s quite important for me to keep doing well, keep narrowing the gap,” said O’Riley. “I just hope that when the end of the season comes around, I don’t have to do too much work to catch him.”

He’s started the process of closing the gap in the weeks after the Telkom PGA Championship and ahead of the Namibia tournament.

“I’ve been working hard, on my swing and trying to get my short game up to scratch,” he said. “I’m happy with progress, too.”

He needs to keep improving the kind of results he has been getting since Versfeld’s big pay cheque in Johannesburg in January: He’s had a share of 20th at the Africom Zimbabwe Open, of 21st at the Dimension Data Pro-Am and of 40th at the Telkom PGA Championship.

During that time, Versfeld shared 36th in Zimbabwe, 25th in the Dimension Data Pro-Am and 42nd in the Telkom PGA Championship.

O’Riley needs to get further ahead of Versfeld if he is to make any headway on the gap, but it is not something he allows to dominate his thoughts during a tournament.

“I concentrate on my own play,” he said. “At end of a round, I will look to see how some of my old amateur friends and rivals are doing, but I don’t pay too much attention to others.

“But if I see Allan – or anyone else has had a good round, then I do try to respond. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to put some good finishes together this year.

But to win the Rookie of the Year award would be a nice way to get pro career started,” he added.

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