Locals from Lusaka Golf Club were dumbfounded on Thursday as Andrew Light charged round the back nine of their club in an astonishing eight-under-par 30 on his way to an opening 68 in the R1.2-million Zambia Sugar Open.
The 6,608-metre par-73 layout is no shrinking violet when it comes to distance, and with small greens that are playing very fast, low scores are hard to come by, but Light made it look easy with three eagles on the three par-fives on the back nine, and ended the day two shots off the pace set by Wallie Coetsee.
“I had a bit of a shocker on the front nine,” said Light of his three-over-par 38 with four bogeys before the turn. “But I hit a couple of fairways and hit a couple of really good long-iron shots and I was happy to make the putts.”
That doesn’t tell the whole story: He made a fifth bogey in his round on that blazing back nine, otherwise he could well have been under 30 for a section that plays at 38 for par.
And the good long irons were not exactly easy to come by on a course which had a lot of the Sunshine Tour professionals scratching their heads as they tried to figure out ways of getting the ball close to the pins.
Light acknowledged that there was some good fortune involved. “I got a bit lucky. I was really close,” he said. “My three eagle putts – one was maybe two metres and the others were three feet. I ran those long irons up to the greens and I had a good bounce or two.”
He shared second on five-under with Jared Harvey, who came closer than anyone else to matching the bogey-free play of Coetsee. Harvey made just one bogey, on the 15th where the pin was stuck away on the right behind a greenside bunker.
Jean Hugo, PH McIntyre and Jake Redman were in a three-way share of fourth on four-under-par, and there was a large group of seven players in a share of seventh at three-under-par 70.
Light, who is a rookie on the Sunshine Tour, won on the development Sunshine Big Easy Tour at Houghton Country Club in April, and brought that experience to bear as he battled off the effects of his disastrous start which had three bogeys in his first four holes.
“I just stayed positive,” he said. “Just don’t give in until the last shot. I was swinging well, and I thought with four par-fives left, I could bring it back with birdies on each of them. It ended up a bit better than that.”
Madalitso Muthiya was the leading Zambian player with a well-constructed two-under-par 71 which included three birdies and a single dropped shot on the eighth.