Birthday wish comes true for Ruan

Ruan de Smidt was in high spirits during round one of the Suncoast Classic on Thursday, and celebrated his 23rd birthday with an early share of the lead at Durban Country Club.

“I can’t ask for more. It was really lekker out there – it was tough, the wind blew and we had a little bit of rain – so I’m very happy with three-under on my birthday,” he said.

The rookie, who won the Sunshine Tour’s 2011 qualifying school, had the rub of the green and shot an impressive 69 to share the lead with Grant Muller.

“Today felt like every other day on the course, but I did have a couple of breaks that went my way,” said De Smidt. “I definitely got a couple of good bounces and I managed to putt better than I have the whole year,” he said.

Ruan’s father, who is a PGA professional, helped him prepare for the coastal winds earlier in the week. On Thursday it really paid off as morning breezes became afternoon gales.

“On Sunday I went to the range with my dad and he helped me with the low shots. Normally I hit a big hook when I try to play low, and he helped me hit it straighter while keeping it down,” he said.

Durban Country Club has hosted the SA Open Championship 17 times, more than any other course, and is a pure test of golf. De Smidt’s class showed in the form of five birdies, stretched out across the card.

“Tuesday was the first time I’ve played here. It’s a very different course, and it played very tough with the wind, so you have to concentrate right the way through your round,” he said.

Muller came home at speed, making four birdies over the final six holes to claim his share of the lead.

“I think we teed off on the right side of the draw today. I got off to a bad start, dropped at the first two holes and wasn’t in a good headspace. After that I just kept the ball in play and made some good putts. It never felt like great shakes out there, but the putts kept rolling,” he said.

That wisdom paid off for the Johannesburg local, who overcame his rocky start and rode the wind to an early share of the lead.

“When the sea starts looking like snow you know it’s blowing hard. There’s a four-club wind today, so it’s a matter of staying patient. Knowledge did play a factor – just a little bit of experience stops you from making silly mistakes, which saves you shots. Whenever you try to sneak the ball a little bit further this course will bite you,” he said.

Wallie Coetzee was the only other player to reach the clubhouse below the card, securing third with his 71. At level-par and sharing fourth were Ian Hutchings and Jacques Blaauw.

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