Justin Harding’s most recent Sunshine Tour victory came at Lusaka Golf Club, so he’s pleased to be back there ahead of the Zambia Sugar Open which gets underway on Thursday – and he showed it with an ace on the 183-metre ninth during the pre-tournament pro-am.
He won the tournament held in Zambia’s capital city in 2012 with a score of 12-under-par on the 6,608-metre par-73 layout, edging out Divan van den Heever by two shots, and he comes into this week’s event with a string of solid recent performances behind him – the most notable being his share of third in March’s Investec Cup, where he closed with a seven-under 65.
He followed that with a pair of top-15s: A share of 14th in the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open and exactly the same in last week’s Mopani/Redpath Zambia Open in Kitwe.
His fifth career hole-in-one brought a broad smile to his face, but he missed out on the Jaguar XF which is up for grabs for anyone achieving the feat once the tournament proper is underway. “Unfortunately, it was a day too early,” he said. “I’ve actually never had a hole-in-one in tournament play.”
For all that, he’s still fond of the course which gave him his most significant victory. “It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what it is I like,” he said. “I think the fact that there are four par-fives on the back nine means you have to have an aggressive mind-set, and if you take advantage of those, you’re generally going to be there and thereabouts.
“The front nine has got a lot of really tricky, awkward par-fours, and if you get through those, you give yourself an opportunity to get going on the back nine, and you can shoot anything. That was the case when I won here in 2012. I didn’t quite have it all my way here last year, but sometimes a golf course can do that to you.
“Last year, we struggled to stop the ball on the greens. It was really firm and the course in general was hard. Because there have been rains recently, we have to be a little more strategic around the course this year,” he added.
He believes that might catch a few people out, and he wants to be ready to pick up the pieces. “I’m hoping that I can find a little bit of mojo through the week,” he said.