Rookie Johan Bekker carded a four-under-par 68 on Thursday to take the first-round lead of the first Sunshine Big Easy Tour event played at the 6,837-metre par-72 Crown Mines Golf Club.
The new tour, presented by Stonehage, is named after three-time major winner Ernie Els in recognition of his continued commitment to the development of the game in South Africa.
The Corwn Mines event is the opening one on the 10-event circuit of R100,000 tournaments, after which there will be R250,000 Tour Championship.
And Bekker, who missed the cut in last weekÂs MTC Namibia PGA Championship and has made just one cut in his four professional tournaments so far, was pleased to have the opportunity to play without the added pressure of contending with veterans on the Sunshine Tour.
Players who received their cards at the Sunshine Tour 2011 Qualifying School played in Bloemfontein last year, and the top 30 at the Vusi Ngubeni Strokeplay played in Johannesburg in January are eligible to play on the tour, as are those who finished from 71st to 150th on the 2010 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.
ÂI think the concept is very good for the development of the tour,Â said Bekker, Âand I think itÂs very well organised.Â
His own game was well organised too: ÂI played a good round of golf Â very solid,Â he said. ÂI worked on a couple of things after Namibia, and IÂm happy with my 68.
ÂIt could have been a bit better, but itÂs a good start and IÂll try and finish it off tomorrow,Â he added.
Bekker started his round on the 11th, and was soon in trouble as he made bogey on the 12th. But he pulled it all together with birdies on 15 and 17.
He made three more birdies on his way in, on three, four and nine.
He shared the lead with Wynand Dingle, and they were one stroke ahead of Adrian Ford, Lyle Rowe and Ryan Thompson.
There was a group of eight players on two-under-par 70.