Anton up front at Big Easy Irene

Anton Haig shot an untouchable 64 at Irene Country Club on Thursday, claiming a three-stroke lead at the Sunshine Big Easy Tour’s fourth tournament presented by Stonehage.


“I wasn’t expecting much today, and that’s when I play my best golf. I was three-under for the par threes, and that turned a good round into a great round,” he smiled.


The tall man from Johannesburg has been in contention twice before on the Big Easy Tour, but led for the first time on Thursday. With two Asian Tour titles to his name, he’ll look to clinch victory on home soil before he once again heads East.


“I love both Thailand and Malaysia, because they are the places where I won my two Asian Tour events. I need to keep my Asian Tour card, so I’m headed over there on Saturday to play the Queen’s Plate in Thailand and then the Selangor Masters in Malaysia,” he said.


In 2007 Haig took his most famous win at the Johnnie Walker Classic, which is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours. He was just 21 years old at the time, but managed to trump Richard Sterne and England’s Oliver Wilson in a three-way playoff.


The talented 27-year-old is ready to reclaim his place amongst Europe’s elite.


“I’m preparing for the end of the year, for European Tour qualifying school. My main objective is to make it back on to the European Tour. That’s where I want to be, because I’ve played three years out there already, and I feel that I’ve got a stronger mental side now,” he explained.


There is a long road back to the upper echelons of golf for Haig, and the restart begins on the Big Easy Tour. He finished tied ninth at Big Easy Roodepoort and again at Big Easy Kempton Park, and the next step is to move into the winners’ circle.


“I’ve just got to keep plodding away and hopefully it will all fall together, but at the moment things are coming together nicely. I was ticking all the boxes today and hopefully tomorrow will follow on from this,” he explained.


On Thursday Haig took the first step towards victory, making nine birdies during the round to stretch out a three-shot cushion over Johan Bekker and Michael Downes, who shared second on five-under-par.


Bekker won at Big Easy Modderfontein last year, and was excited to be back in contention after spending some time away from the spotlight.


“I’m taking a bit of pressure off myself, because my attitude toward golf is very important. Today I relaxed and that led to me making six birdies in a row from the seventh to the 12th, so I’m pretty happy!” he laughed.


Amateur Louis Taylor had a chance to tee up amongst the professionals this week and seized the opportunity with both hands, carding a first-round 68 to wrap up sole fourth. He was followed by six players sharing fifth place on two-under-par.


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