De Kock spent most of the first day in the Sunshine Tour/European Tour co-sanctioned event at East London Golf Club inside the top-20 on the leaderboard after a solid one-under-par 71 in tricky, windy conditions.
“I just need to focus on what I have to do, I know my strong points and keeping the ball in play is one of those, which is what you have to do on this course,” De Kock said after his round.
De Kock, starting on the ninth hole, began solidly with two pars, but then dropped a shot at the par-four 12th, a tough hole with sharp elevation changes.
He immediately gained the shot back though with a birdie on the 13th, but then dropped again on the par-four 14th.
But the 31-year-old then found his feet and parred his way to the turn and then picked up three birdies on the front nine, with just a bogey on the par-four fourth to set him back.
“It wasn’t easy today but I’m happy with 71 in the wind. I had a few drops because of my putter, but then I sank a few putts to give me some momentum. I learnt from the other guys in my three-ball, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Le Roux Ferreira, hitting the low balls, so I started hitting lower too,” De Kock said.
De Kock is in his fourth year on the Sunshine Tour, but has made the cut in just two of 32 events, so if he can build on his good start in the Africa Open then it could be a stunning boost to his career and bank balance.
The reaction of his father, Frans, who is caddying for De Kock, after he sank his par-putt on the eighth hole (the end of the front nine at East London GC) made it clear what a good day it was for the former Eastern Province Amateur Matchplay champion.
“My dad is on the bag and he was very happy, you could see his expression when my round finished. He gave me a thumbs-up and a hug!” De Kock said.
Which just goes to prove how such great delight can come from such simple things.