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Van Tonder Seals Stunning Comeback

Actions speak louder than words, but Danie van Tonder screamed “Daantjie is back” with a nine shot victory in the IGT Tour’s Houghton Open on Wednesday.

The three-time Sunshine Tour champion ended a 19-month title drought with rounds of 65, 64 and 65 to celebrate a wire-to-wire victory on 22-under-par 194.

American Zachary Portemont eagled the 15 and finished birdie-birdie for a 66 to take sole second, while a 66 in the final round lifted former European Tour winner Anton Haig to third on 206.

Van Tonder dominated the country’s premier development Tour with 10 victories in 2011 and not surprisingly, led the Sunshine Tour’s 2012 Rookie of the Year standings at the end of his first season.

Much was expected of the country’s former number one ranked amateur and he didn’t disappoint.

In 2014, he reeled in three titles and was narrowly beaten in the Order of Merit race by Thomas Aiken at the season-finale SA Open.

But after starting the 2015 season with a superb tie for third in the Dimension Data Pro-Am, his game took a nose dive and Van Tonder slipped off the radar.

After a final round 61 at the GMC Doubles last week, Van Tonder hinted at a comeback and the Benoni professional was understandably pleased to get the job done at Houghton.

“I turn 25 on Saturday, but now we have a reason to start the celebrations early,” he said.

“Besides, I have to be fighting fit for my flight to Kenya on Sunday. I am champing at the bit to kick butt in my first Challenge Tour start at the Kenya Open next week.”

Van Tonder said he knew he was coming out of the slump after finishing the GMC Doubles on 20 under.

“I set myself a target to break the 200 mark at Houghton Golf Club and I can’t even describe how good it feels,” the GFG Academy player said.

“I think the biggest mistake players make when they hit a slump is to start tinkering with their swing, or their putting stroke or such. It’s a fact that every pro goes through a bad patch every so often, so why would you change something that worked for you just because you’ve struck a bad patch?

“I never changed my swing; I just rode it out and lived with the frustration, because I knew it would end at some point. But it’s a relief to get it over and done with.”

As to the reason for his unexpected decline, Van Tonder has a theory.

“My runner-up finish in the Order of Merit got me into two World Golf Championships (Cadillac Championship and the HSBC Champions) and some other international events, but I definitely wasn’t prepared to deal with all the travelling, the red tape and that stuff,” he said.

“We always think the top players in the world are whining when they complain about all the travel, but I really understand what they mean. When you have to combat jet-lag and deal with all that stuff off the course, it takes it out of you.

“It’s that next step and it takes time to get used to it. It definitely took its toll on me, but this time around, I know the pitfalls and I know what to expect. I’m really excited about the rest of the season.”

FINAL RESULT

All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA:

194 – Danie Van Tonder 65 64 65

203 – Zachary Portemont USA 72 65 66

206 – Anton Haig 70 70 66

207 – Russel Franz 65 72 70

208 – Jeff Inglis ENG 73 67 68, Teboho Sefatsa 70 67 71

209 – Francois Coetzee 72 68 69, Dayne Moore ZAM 72 68 69, Dean O’Riley 69 69 71

211 – Juan Langeveld 71 68 72

212 – Paul De Beer 70 72 70, Werner van Niekerk 73 69 70, Cameron Esau 73 67 72, Drikus van der Walt 76 64 72, Oliver Bekker 71 69 72

213 – Duane Keun 70 72 71, Dylan O’Leary 73 69 71

215 – Matthew Vogel 71 72 72, Conway Kunneke 72 70 73, Antonio Rosado POR 70 72 73, Breyten Meyer 69 71 75, Damian Naicker 66 74 75

216 – Stephan Erasmus (AMA) 70 73 73, Phillip Kruse (AMA) 72 69 75, Jacques de Villiers 69 72 75, Nyasha Muyambo ZIM 75 71 70

217 – Eric Nel (AMA) 75 68 74, Andi Dill 69 72 76

218 – TJ Bekker 74 69 75, Alastair Waddell ENG 71 71 76, David Ashley ENG 72 72 74, Simon Kruger 73 73 72, Tyrone Mordt 76 63 79

219 – Ricki Dembo (AMA) 71 70 78, Gary Daoust (AMA) BEL 76 72 71, Ruan Huysamen NAM 72 78 69

220 – Sheldon Steyn ZIM 73 70 77, Hilton Hughes (AMA) 73 70 77, Terence Boardman 72 72 76

221 – Norman Beggs 72 73 76, Roux Jeffery NAM 78 67 76, Coert Groenewald 74 72 75

222 – Ludovic Bax MUS 77 70 75, Neal Herman 72 75 75, Irvin Mazibuko 67 72 83, Michelle Leigh 77 73 72

223 – CJ Levey 74 70 79

224 – Stuart Smith BOT 78 67 79

225 – Owen Grobler 75 75 75

226 – Dylan de Beer 78 74 74

227 – Gerard Du Plooy 73 75 79

229 – Jason Ackerman (AMA) 80 72 77

230 – Brendan Britten NAM 74 75 81, Shalan Govender 73 77 80, Patrick Thompson 74 77 79, Divan Marais (AMA) 81 71 78

231 – Matt Wollman (AMA) ZIM 79 73 79, Dwayne Coetzee 80 72 79

235 – Terence Mogapi 78 74 83

237 – Dean Du Plessis (AMA) 73 79 85

239 – Justin Levy NLD 77 75 87

N/R – John McClean NIR 74 71 N/R

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