15-shot swing keeps Potgieter’s PGA Tour hopes alive

Dec 16, 2023 | Featured, South Africans abroad

From PGA Tour

Aldrich Potgieter is looking for a place to live as he pursues a PGA Tour career in 2024.

He had been eyeing northeast Florida, though Thursday wasn’t the greatest introduction to the area.

With wind gusts blowing over 30 mph, the 19-year-old South African shot 78 at Sawgrass Country Club in the first round of Final Stage of Q-School presented by Korn Ferry. Considered one of the pre-tournament favourites to finish in the top five and earn a PGA Tour card, Potgieter found himself tied for 156th.

“It was a weird situation,” Potgieter said Friday. “I was like, ‘well, it happened. I know I can shoot a better score tomorrow.’”

Perhaps that’s not a high bar to clear, but besting his opening round by 15 strokes certainly is. Potgieter shot a second-round seven-under 63, one shot off the Dye’s Valley course record, to claw his way back into relevance. At one-over for the tournament, Potgieter is seven shots back of the top five and two shots back of the top 45, which would earn him additional Korn Ferry Tour status.

It’s still an uphill climb. Considering where he was 24 hours earlier, it was progress.

“I hit the ball amazing,” said Potgieter, who displayed the ball-striking prowess that helped him become the second youngest winner of The Amateur at age 17 in 2022. He made eight birdies to just one bogey on Friday and carded the lowest round of Q-School this week.

Potgieter attributed Thursday’s troubles mainly to the weather, a mediocre round that got out of hand as the conditions worsened. He left Sawgrass Country Club on Thursday, returned to his rental house and took a two-hour nap. He woke up, ate dinner and then went back to bed. There was no sense in worrying about something that already happened.

“You can’t change it once it’s over,” Potgieter said. “So, just trying to change the next round, that’s the most important part. It hasn’t happened often, I can tell you that.”

The long-hitting South African has had a rapid rise into professional golf. He made the cut at this year’s US Open and turned pro the following week – finishing T35 at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Compliance Solutions Championship – before hitting the Monday qualifying circuit (he also made a par-four ace at the John Deere Classic qualifier, ultimately missing by one). After recharging for a couple of weeks at home in South Africa, he rolled through Second Stage of Q-School in Valdosta, Georgia – earning medallist honours by four shots to secure guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts at minimum in 2024.

That meant he could deploy an aggressive strategy this week as he chases one of the five available PGA Tour cards – an approach suited to his propensity for power. Friday was a display of what can happen when his game clicks.

Though with conditions expected to ramp up again this weekend, Potgieter will need to conquer the bad-weather demons. Friday’s round assured there will still be stakes when he does.

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