The eye of the storm

While only five players managed to score below par in torrential conditions at Observatory Golf Club, Alpheus Kelapile was as calm as the eye of the storm and shot 72 to win Vusi Ngubeni Qualifying School.

“I really needed this. Last night I told myself to do whatever it took…today I restored my confidence in myself,” he said. His vision led him past the wind and rain, and he closed the tournament at eight-under-par, claiming the first of 10 Sunshine Tour cards handed out on Friday.

He could see the finish line by the 14th hole and did not falter, finishing one stroke clear of Jack Kutumane, who shot 70 for his final 18.

“From the 13th I looked at the scoreboard and I thought to myself ‘you’ve got this’ and didn’t look back. All I aimed for was to keep it in play: hit the fairway, hit the green. I knew that it was mine to lose, and I would not allow that,” he said.

Kelapile had a blurry front stretch – he spattered the round with bogeys at the 3rd and 9th and produced no birdies to plug the leak. He turned at two-over.

By the back nine he had mastered the wind and he birdied the 11th and 13th, which drown out his two-shot deficit and returned him to level-par for the round.

He closed the round with five consecutive pars and breezed to a one-stroke victory, saying: “I know what to do know and where to work. I spent this year aiming for the 2012 season, and this makes me feel ready.”

Also earning cards were: Irvin Mazibuko, Allister de Kock (AMA), Elvis Sithebe(AMA), Thabo Maseko(AMA), Rocky Tlhabanyane, Makgetha Mazibuko, Sung-Moon Hohng(AMA), George Brown. Hohng and Brown ousted Neo Thubisi and John Bele in a countout after all four players finished at one-over.

The top 30 receive cards for the Sunshine Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage. Aside from the aforementioned top 10, they were: Neo Thubisi, John Bele, Warren Holland, Albert Tsai, Michael Dreyer, Thanda Mavundla, Mikhail Tewary, Sammy Daniels, Trevor Mahoney, Kenneth Dube, Vickesh Singh, Ben Jonas, Tsietsi Chabangu, Wandile Gininda, Yubin Jung(AMA), Cameron Esau, Zwelakhe Dube, Zuko Sangqu, Shaun Sauls(AMA), Sbu Nhlapho(AMA) and Brian October(AMA).

Kelapile, when asked about the the Big Easy Tour, said: “It has played a major role in my game. It’s solid, competitive golf and the initiative has really helped my game.”

Finishing first took cool nerves and showcased the 27-year-old as a quiet danger in the coming season. “It’s been a long, long time coming. I feel like I’ve worked hard for this and I deserve it.”

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