It’s a team game for Daniel van Tonder, and he was never more grateful for the assistance of wife Abbi on the bag as he held tenaciously on to a two-stroke lead on Saturday after the third round of the Sunshine Tour’s Limpopo Championship.
The wind came up at Euphoria Golf and Lifestyle Estate, and the long-term professional relationship that grew out of their marriage came to the fore as he relied on her detailed knowledge of his golf skills and her ability to read the conditions as he ground his way to a one-over-par 73 to hold the edge over Brandon Stone, Oliver Bekker, German Marcel Siem and Kristian Krogh Johannessen of Denmark.
“I shot two-over today, and it could have been worse,” said Van Tonder. “If it wasn’t for Abbi with her club selection, and keeping me calm, I could have ended up tied for the lead, or worse. So hats off to her for helping me out there, and I’m happy.”
He made a two-over-par 74, with two bogeys and a birdie on each nine, and, while he is normally able to take advantage of the par-fives, he made birdie on just one in the third round – the ninth – and two of his bogeys came on par-three, which are normally vulnerable to his accuracy.
“The wind was very tough,” he said. “For instance, on the fifth, on the previous two days, I hit driver and gap wedge, and today I hit driver and six-iron and I was short of the green. The greens are getting firmer, and if you hit your shots out of the rough, it’s quite hard to keep them on the green. So you have to try and pitch it short of the green and hope it bounces on. It’s sometimes wet around the green so it’s a chance you take.
“Off the tee, I was fine. Abbi helped me with the wind. She gives me a shot to hit, and I just do that. I trust her completely. She’s never really wrong. It’s just me who sometimes doubts, and I’ve learned the hard way that when she says something, I must just do it.”
The veteran Siem was the man who made up the most ground on Van Tonder with his four-under 68. He made five birdies and just a single birdie in the difficult conditions. Stone also made just one bogey in his three-under to take up position two behind Van Tonder.
Behind the four players in a share of second were South Africans Louis Albertse, Jaco Prinsloo and MJ Viljoen, together with Frenchman Jeong Weon Ko, all on five-under and three off the pace.
For Van Tonder, it will continue to be important to listen to his caddie and wife in the final round, but it will also be pedal to the metal as he goes in search of the title.
“The objective is to win,” he said. “Secondly, it will be to hit fairways and greens and make it difficult for the other guys to catch me.”