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25th February 2023

A Vaillant effort to still lead in Humewood wind

GQEBERHA (Eastern Cape) – The wind arrived at Humewood Golf Club on Saturday, and it shook up the Nelson Mandela Bay Championship leaderboard like a three-legged washing machine on full spin cycle.

Frenchman Tom Vaillant did well to hold on to his overnight lead with a fighting 73 for a total of 13 under par in third-round conditions which Humewood General Manager Brendon Timm described as “a day when the birds walk rather than fly”.

“It felt like the wind was 100km/h in my head. I just tried to fight as much as possible. It was some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever played in. I just fought as hard as I could. In this wind you don’t have to try and make birdies. You’re just trying to keep the ball safe,” said the battle-weary Frenchman.

“The final round will just be me against the golf course and the conditions. It’s my first year on tour and I know I can win. I’ll try and do my best.”

Vaillant’s nearest challenger is South Africa’s JJ Senekal on 12 under par following his 71, and he’s looking for back-to-back wins on this Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour South African Swing.

“The front nine played ridiculously hard. The first six holes are brutal straight into the wind. You’re hitting driver and seven iron and driver and five iron into every hole there. It’s a brutal start to the golf course in this wind. But I’m in a good spot one shot back,” said Senekal.

And then South Africa’s Hennie O’Kennedy, Brandon Stone and Dylan Mostert as well as Englishman Josh Hilleard and American Dan Erickson are lined up on 11 under.

“I think that’s the best round of three under par I’ve ever shot in my life,” said Mostert following his 69. “On the 15th I had a putt that I’d read as a cup outside on the left, and I aimed a ball right because of the wind, and I still missed it on the left.”

As tough as it was, the likes of O’Kennedy still made six consecutive birdies over the turn, Stone birdied three of his final four holes, Hilleard holed out for eagle on the par-four ninth and then added another eagle on the 11th, Senekal had an eagle and two birdies on a tough back nine, and Vaillant birdied two of his final four holes.

The Humewood locals were pleased. They’d come to see just how the Sunshine Tour’s finest handle the wind that batters their regular league matches on this historic links.

And they nodded their approval. – Michael Vlismas