A Crazy Week

J C Ritchie scored a sur­prise maiden vic­tory at the Zim­babwe Open – first event of the 2017/18 Sun­shine Tour sea­son.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Life - In­ter­viewed by Barry Havenga

ON MAK­ING A NINE ON OPEN­ING HOLE AT ZIM­BABWE OPEN I hit two balls out of bounds at Royal Harare on the first hole on day one, both big pull hooks. I made nine and was seven-over-par through seven holes. But I was strangely calm, and ac­tu­ally told my play­ing part­ners as I left the first green what a funny story it would be if I went on to win! At the ninth I holed out for an ea­gle two from 186 me­tres with a 6-iron which set the tone for a crazy week where I was to make 27 birdies along with that ea­gle.

ON LEARN­ING TO EX­PECT THE UN­EX­PECTED Af­ter open­ing with a 74 I shot 67-67 to trail Trevor Fisher by five shots through 54 holes. On the first hole of the fi­nal round I had to blast out side­ways from a green­side bunker, but then holed my chip for par and went on to shoot a bo­gey-free 64 (31-33).As I signed my card Trevor Fisher had just ea­gled the par-5 16th to move two ahead, so I started pack­ing up my bag.Then I was told he had made double-bo­gey on 17. I went to the prac­tice green alone and be­gan men­tally pre­par­ing for a play­off – which I won with a birdie on the sec­ond ex­tra hole. (Ritchie’s pre­vi­ous best fin­ish on tour had been a T-3 in the 2015 Zim­babwe Open at Royal Harare.)

ON A TIMELY PUT­TER CHANGE At the Di­men­sion Data Pro-Am at Fan­court in Fe­bru­ary I metWi­estaw Kram­ski, the de­signer and owner of Kram­ski Put­ters.We had a two-hour fit­ting ses­sion and I was given a mal­let model to try out for a few events. I’d been strug­gling with my putting for a long time but ev­ery­thing seemed to click with the Kram­ski, ul­ti­mately with vic­tory in Zim­babwe.Th­ese cus­tom-made put­ters range in price from R5 500 to R21 000, but I think there is go­ing to be a ‘spon­sor­ship ar­range­ment’ in place soon.Well, at least I hope there is!

ON A DIF­FI­CULT DE­CI­SION TO CHANGE COACHES I’d been part of the Graeme Fran­cis Golf Academy in Cen­tu­rion for seven years be­fore mak­ing one of the hard­est de­ci­sions of my life. Graeme was my first and only coach, but I reached a stage where I wanted to see if some­one else had a dif­fer­ent opin­ion about my game.We split af­ter the DiData and I be­gan work­ing with John Dick­son at The Els Club.

ON TURN­ING PRO DE­SPITE A LIM­ITED AMA­TEUR RECORD I didn’t have much of an ama­teur record – two Ju­nior In­ter­provin­cial ap­pear­ances for Gaut­eng North – but my fam­ily agreed I could take a year off af­ter ma­tric­u­lat­ing from South­downs Col­lege to play golf full time. A fam­ily friend who owns an earth-mov­ing com­pany spon­sored my liv­ing costs and I set out to play the IGT Tour in 2013.

ON TOUGH­EN­ING UP ON THE IGT TOUR The IGT Tour’s slo­gan, ‘Where good play­ers be­come tour play­ers,’ is apt for my pro­gres­sion in the game. I def­i­nitely wouldn’t be where I was to­day if I hadn’t grinded it out on the IGT Tour. There are a lot of good play­ers there and it’s fiercely com­pet­i­tive. It’s also a good way to stay sharp when the Sun­shine Tour sched­ule is sparse. Graeme Fran­cis put up the money for my first en­try fee and told me to keep go­ing un­til I missed a cut. I man­aged to play in seven con­sec­u­tive events. Hav­ing missed my Sun­shine Tour card in 2013 (+12 for 72 holes), I re­turned a year later and fin­ished third at Q School (10-un­der for 90 holes). Cel­e­bra­tions af­ter the Zim­babwe Open play­off.

ON BE­ING NAMED AF­TER A FOR­MULA 1 DRIVER My full name is Juan-Carlo, and my dad named me af­ter Ital­ian rac­ing driver Gian­carlo Fisichella. My fam­ily are mo­tor in­dus­try en­thu­si­asts – own­ing four Ford deal­er­ships – and we love watch­ing rac­ing. I’d like to try it my­self one day.

ON THE ONE RULE CHANGE GOLF NEEDS We should be al­lowed to tap down spike marks on the green.

ON A DREAM FOUR­BALL MATCH Tiger, Jack, Seve and me at Au­gusta Na­tional.

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