Jaco holds his nerve for maiden victory

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

JACO AH­LERS claimed a maiden pro­fes­sional victory when he beat Ul­rich van den Berg in a play­off to win the Vo­da­com Busi­ness Ori­gins of Golf Tour at Erin­vale in Som­er­set West yes­ter­day.

Ah­lers and Van Den Berg fin­ished reg­u­la­tion play tied for the lead on nine un­der par fol­low­ing re­spec­tive rounds of 71 and 68.

Play­ing the par-four 18th as the first play­off hole, Ah­lers pro­duced a sub­lime ap­proach to three feet and holed the putt for birdie and the ti­tle.

Van Den Berg parred to fin­ish sec­ond in a tour­na­ment re­duced to 36 holes be­cause of bad weather.

“I’ve come close a few times and at last it’s hap­pened for me,” said Ah­lers, who led the first round by two strokes fol­low­ing an eight-un­der-par 64.

On the fi­nal day he went out in one over par for the round, while ahead of him Jaco van Zyl made a strong charge.

Van Zyl closed with a 65, in­clud­ing a back nine of 30, to set the club­house tar­get at eight un­der par. Play­ing with Ah­lers, Van Den Berg had climbed to 10 un­der par play­ing the par-four 17th.

But his sec­ond fin­ished well short of the green and he went on to make bo­gey. Ah­lers then holed a 25-foot putt for birdie to see them tied on nine un­der play­ing the last.

“That was a big putt for me,” said Ah­lers. “To be hon­est, I just tried to get my putt close and I’m glad the hole jumped in front of it be­cause it had a bit of speed. But it went in and the rest is his­tory.” Van Den Berg had a birdie chance to take the ti­tle in reg­u­la­tion play, but left his putt inches short of the hole to take them into the play­off.

“I knew some­thing had to hap­pen, and that a good round was on the cards this week,” said Ah­lers. “It came with my first round of 64, and then I just kept on go­ing and play­ing one shot at a time.

“Walk­ing down the fair­way on 18 in the play­off, my cad­die said to me, ‘ Lis­ten, there are only two places here – first and first loser. So go for the pin and don’t play safe.’ I had the per­fect yardage and I couldn’t have asked for a bet­ter re­sult.”

The tour­na­ment also marked the first time this sea­son that the Birdies for Kid­dies ini­tia­tive, which forms part of this se­ries, crossed the mil­lion rand mark this year.

Vo­da­com has agreed to do­nate R500 to var­i­ous char­i­ties for ev­ery birdie made by a pro­fes­sional on this year’s Vo­da­com Busi­ness Ori­gins of Golf Tour.

A to­tal of 456 birdies were made this week for a sum of R228,000, tak­ing the over­all to­tal in the four tour­na­ments to date to R1,145,000. – Sapa

FIRST WIN: Jaco Ah­lers tri­umphed in the Ori­gins of Golf event

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