Riekus roars at ERPM

It was only his eighth professional tournament, yet rookie Riekus Nortje blazed his way to a four-stroke victory at the Sunshine Big Easy Tour’s ERPM Golf Club tournament on Friday.

“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I’m sure tomorrow morning I will really get the feeling, although at this moment I’m very, very happy, especially taking my first win in my first year,” he said.

An opening 67 sparked to the 21-year-old’s confidence, and he went on to shoot a second-round 68 and claim the first prize in the R100 000 event presented by Stonehage.

“Today I just kept my mind off things. I didn’t focus on how the other guys played, I just tried to play every shot the best I could. And that helped keep my mind off where I was lying,” he said.

Not that the Fancourt professional needed to worry – he led throughout the final round. And even though runner-up Thomas Lovett shot an impressive 67, Nortje knew that victory was his as he closed out the stretch.

“On 16 I thought that this was mine. I hit a pretty good second shot and made the putt. I knew I had a pretty good lead and going down 17 I started feeling confident.

“I pulled my first shot a bit, but coming down 18 I felt very confident. I was playing within myself. I knew what I had to do and I did it,” he said.

Lovett, who began the day at level-par, was superb over the stretch and made five birdies. Carding 31 over his final loop boosted the 27-year-old to five-under, and he claimed sole possession of second.

Welshman Stuart Clark played alongside Nortje after shooting a solid 68 on Thursday, but struggled to overcome ERPM’s quick greens and shot level-par for the second round. His four-under-par tally put him into a share of third alongside Coenie Stoop and Coenie Bester.

For Nortje the victory carried far more value than cash – he had won during his maiden year on tour. He looked to the future with optimism. “To win means I belong here. I’ve still got a couple of pre-qualifiers ahead of me, but going into those I’ll have a lot of confidence. I know how to play and I’ll be a lot more comfortable playing in the pre-qualifiers and the bigger events,” he said.

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