Veenstra triumphs at IFQ Africa

South Africans Grant Veenstra and Andrew Georgiou will join Brazil’s Adilson da Silva at The Open 2012 after heading the field at International Final Qualifying (IFQ) Africa today.

51 players entered the 36-hole tournament at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club with the hope of emulating previous IFQ Africa qualifiers including 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen and book a spot at Royal Lytham & St Annes this July.

“We all dream about playing in The Open while growing up. Every golfer wants to play amongst the best, to play at the highest level, and I am so excited for this chance to test myself and play with golf’s best,” said Veenstra, who booked his place with a final round 67 for a six-under-par total of 138.

He leapt into contention with a string of birdies from the sixth to the ninth after dropping at the fifth, and having carded an opening birdie at the first, Veenstra reached the turn at four-under for the day.

“This event is very stressful, because you are playing for something very special. I attacked the course today and got off to a good start – you can’t ask for much more than four-under at the turn,” he said.

He continued his charge with birdies at the 13th and 15th, but was stopped short by a double-bogey at the 16th before carding a final birdie at 18.

“On 16 I hit my poorest shot of the day, landed it right in the water and proceeded to make five there. But then the last shot on the 18th was my best shot this year – I hit it from the long grass and landed it 25 foot from the pin. The putt stopped just in the teeth, but that was the best recovery I’ve made from the rough. When I stood over the ball I knew it was then or never,” he said.

Shooting five-under for the second round took Veenstra’s tally to a clubhouse lead of six-under, which held throughout the day and earned the 28-year-old his place at The Open 2012.

Brazilian Adilson da Silva looked to have blown his chances when he double-bogeyed 16, but his tournament score of five-under was enough to earn him a place at his third Open Championship.

“It hasn’t sunk in completely. It’s ridiculous how excited I am to play in The Open. Maybe it will be third-time lucky,” said da Silva, whose opening 68 anchored his position on the leaderboard.

“After that round I am glad to be able to breathe again. That double-bogey on the 16th really caught my attention. That added a lot of pressure over the last few holes.”

The Brazilian began the second 18 well and birdied one, seven and eight to top the leaderboard ahead of his second nine. A drop at the par-three 12th was cancelled out by a birdie at the 14th before his double-drop at the 16th, but experience paid off and da Silva saved par over his last two holes.

Andrew Georgiou, at 25 the youngest of the qualifiers, burnt through the back stretch in 32 strokes to shoot four-under for the second round and claim the third and final place at The Open.

An elated Georgiou said: “It’s incredible – I can’t believe it. I gave it my all and to be on top is great. The Open is such an awesome tournament. It has always been my dream to play in an event of this magnitude and to see it coming true is hard to describe. It’s time to head for the UK and play with the best, I can’t ask for more.”

Georgiou birdies the first and looked steady through the front nine, dropping a lone shot at the fourth but recovering it with a birdie at eight. He turned at one-under for the day.

He took a more aggressive approach on the back nine, which led to birdies at the 12th, 15th, 16th and 18th, despite a lone drop at the 14th.

“I made a lot of birdies down the stretch. My gameplan was to go for it, to hit driver often and go for the flags. I started and finished well, so I couldn’t ask for more,” he said.

It was a different story, however, for overnight leader Tim Sluiter. The Dutchman posted a superb 66 on day one and began brightly with an eagle at the first but an eight-over-par back nine – which included a seven at the par-3 16th – on his way to a 78 put pay to his chances.

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