Alpheus the frontrunner at Royal Joburg

Alpheus Kelapile was the first of five players to reach the clubhouse at three-under-par on Tuesday at the Sunshine Big Easy Tour Royal Johannesburg and Kensington presented by Stonehage.

“I’ve hit the ball so nicely, and the fairways are a bit dry, so the ball runs and gives you a chance to get up there,” he said.

Kelapile took advantage of a break in the Tour schedule, working on his game and building confidence, which showed as he took hold of a tie for the lead alongside Jared Harvey, Pieter Moolman, Graham van der Merwe and Paul Bradshaw.

“Today is done, and tomorrow is another day,” said Kelapile. “I have been working so hard on my game, especially my short game, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

“I saved a lot on the greens today. I hit 14 greens in regulation and managed an up and down. The course is tough – it’s the venue for the Joburg Open – so you have to hit as many fairways as possible. It’s about keeping it in play.”

For Harvey, a rookie on the tour, the break had value – he played social golf almost daily, and felt relaxed upon his return to competition.

“I was happy with the round,” he said. “I got off to a bad start – I was two-over through four and I thought I could be in for a long day – but I made a good birdie at the sixth and that turned it around.”

“I have a quite a lot of friends at Mount Edgecombe, and we just jump into a cart and have a round, so I’ve played pretty much every day. For a tournament golfer, if you take four days off it feels like a month, so I like to draw the line at one or two. It was nice to see some mates and spend time with the family, but when you’re a tournament player it’s good to get back out there: you miss the game and enjoy the competition,” said the 23-year-old.

Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club is home to Van der Merwe, a fellow rookie on Tour, who overcame a double at the eighth and went on to finish the round with birdies at 17 and 18.

“This is my home course, so I know where not to miss it. That helps me keep the drops off the card. Being on Tour is a bit of a shock to the system, because you realize how good all of the players are. That’s why it’s nice to play Big Easy, because it offers a good way to ease into the Tour and get straight in to competitive golf,” he said.

It would have been a quiet round for Bradshaw, but for the fact that he made albatross at the first (his 10th) and zoomed to a share of the lead.

“I had a bit of a rough first nine with no real flashes. On the first I hit a good drive onto the middle of the fairway. I hit a pure six-iron and it was going straight at the flag until it trickled into the front edge. It was quite a turnaround to go from level to three-under. It was awesome – you can never wish them away,” he said.

Moolman had a bit of a rollercoaster round. He carded an eagle, four birdies and three bogeys during the first round, coming out on top after playing aggressive golf.

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