Gerhard Pepler carded a second successive round of 66 in the final round of the Altron Big Easy Tour’s season-ending tournament to claim a two-stroke victory over Keelan van Wyk at Country Club Johannesburg on Thursday.
Pepler’s win in Woodmead marked his second win in two months on this circuit this year, with his first coming at the play-off at Centurion Country Club a month or so ago.
“Today’s round felt a little bit more solid than yesterday,” said Pepler after his win. “Today, I was hitting the ball somewhere on the planet and managed to keep it in play for the most part. But, after the Blue Label win in Soweto, the confidence just got higher and higher. The win in the play-off was also important for me but to win back-to-back on tour is special.”
Sharing the lead ahead of the final round thanks to rounds of 70 and 66, Pepler knew the final round was going to be a true test of character.
“It was always going to be tough,” he said, “because the guys here all play so well and I had to stay focused. It was also nice to have my parents here supporting me.”
Pepler’s win in the final also certified him as the winner of the Order of Merit, leading 11 other players to the Sunshine Tour next season.
“At the beginning of the season, the goal was just to make the top 12,” said Pepler of his Order of Merit win. “But, as the tournaments went on, and after Soweto (where he won the Sunshine Tour’s Blue Label Development Tour event) where my confidence got a big boost, then I started believing I could move higher on the Order of Merit. Then I thought I should just go for it.
“This means a lot to me because, from where I was when I was younger to where I am right now, there’s massive growth. My mentality, how I play golf and in life, a lot has changed for the better.”
Having claimed three titles this season, Pepler will feel confident that he has what it takes to compete on the Sunshine Tour. The other players who have earned their Sunshine Tour playing cards for the new season are Ricky Hendler, Ruan de Smidt, DK Kim, Reinhardt Blaauw, Keelan Van Wyk, Gregory McKay, Nicholaus Frade, LB Boshoff, Adam Breen, Leon Visser and Jonathan Waschefort. Makhetha Mazibuko, Jacquin Hess, Allister de Kock and Musiwalo Nethunzwi are the four members of the Papwa Sewgolum Class who have earned playing privileges on the main tour.
The Transformation Class comprises 61 Black professionals including youngsters such as Franklin Manchest and Evans Vukeya who did not make it to the final event due to their Order of Merit rankings.
The Big Easy Tour was founded in 2011 with support from Ernie Els and counts current international star Christiaan Bezuidenhout among its former Order of Merit winners.
By Matthews Mfubu (Fullpage Media and Communications)