Ricky Hendler finally got his breakthrough win on the Altron Big Easy Tour after his final-round 70 earned him a one-shot victory over Reinhardt Blaauw at Houghton Golf Club on Thursday, and said it was down to changes he made in his strategy.
The left-handed Dainfern Golf Club member has built a reputation of being one of the most aggressive players on the Altron Big Easy Tour circuit, a trait he feels has been costly in the last four tournaments.
“I have been in contention four weeks in a row now,” Hendler noted after his round in Houghton, “but I haven’t gotten the job done. I don’t feel like I’ve been playing badly but I just think that maybe my strategy hasn’t been the best. Sometimes I get a bit too aggressive, which is fine in the first round – you come to shoot a low one and get yourself into it – but in the final round there are so many nerves and you’re worried about what everyone else is doing and you just want to win so badly.
“So, today, I just told myself to play not conservatively but rather conservatively aggressive; pick targets. I said to myself ‘You don’t have to hit driver everywhere, give yourself 116 in if you have to’. 116 in is my bread and butter. It proved to be a good strategy.”
Hendler was in a three-way share of the lead going into the final round. He was three-under through the first six holes thanks to birdies on the first, the fifth and sixth holes, which gave him a perfect start in the final round. He dropped on seven and had to wait until the ninth hole for another birdie as he turned in 33.
He backed that birdie up with another on 10 but he gave those gains away on the next hole. After a par-save on hole 12, Hendler made another bogey on 13 and then a double-bogey on the par-five 15. He found a welcome birdie on the 16th before driving the green on the par-four 17th for an opportunity to make an eagle. Hendler missed that eagle-putt but was happy to walk away with a birdie there.
“Today I just wanted to keep the ball in front of me and not make too many mistakes,” he said, “and as I said, from 116 I would rate myself against anyone. So, I just thought to myself, ‘Keep it in play and give yourself a lot of iron shots in. You’re not going to have to shoot 64 to win. Two, or three or four-under will get the job done.’
“I’m just so happy to finally get it done. It’s been a lot of hard work. I just missed my card at Qualifying School. I haven’t been playing professional golf that long, so I’m really lucky. I have a whole support team around me that believes in me, and I’m starting to believe in myself more and more every week. I can’t wait to be on the Sunshine Tour next year.
“This Big Easy Tour is just amazing for giving us this platform to play every week and compete against really good players. I feel like if I do get my Sunshine Tour card next year, I will be ready.”
Prior to his win here, Hendler came fourth at Blue Valley, second at Huddle Park, seventh and Reading and fifth at Randpark last week.
By Matthews Mfubu (Fullpage Media and Communications)