Sipho Bujela tore around Crown Mines Golf Club in 70 strokes yesterday and his card included six birdies, one eagle, four bogeys and one double-bogey. He wrapped up the weather-delayed first round in a share of second on two-under-par.
“It’s always good to have a good start. I had plenty of birdies out there and a lot of drops, but I’m happy with the score that I came out with at the end of the day,” he said.
Thunderstorms forced a suspension in play at 4.30pm on Tuesday, but Bujela was already safely in the clubhouse on two-under-par, one shot behind leader Kenneth Dube. Play resumed at 6.30 on Wednesday morning and the final matches completed the first round by 7.30.
“I’m not holding back, I want to go for it,” said Bujela. “There are a number of good players out there and it’s going to be a challenge, but I’m willing to give it my best.”
Named for the late Vusi Ngubeni, a Sunshine Tour board member and a director of Eskom who was killed in a 2003 motor accident, the 72-hole event was originally conceived as an opportunity for previously disadvantaged players to get onto the Sunshine Tour.
That was a cause which was particularly close to the heart of Ngubeni, a natural sportsman who achieved a five-handicap after only a short period of playing golf. He actively endeavoured to produce positive solutions to the issues created by a lack of access, and was also involved in the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation, identifying and assisting promising young black golfers.
This year’s tournament saw 123 hopefuls head to Crown Mines, a 6837 metre parklands track situated next door to Soccer City stadium. The course presents a good challenge with tight, tree-lined fairways and water coming into play on 10 of the holes.
“This is one of those courses that you need to know your way around. It punishes you when you hit it into the wrong place, like I did on a few holes. It’s one of those courses that takes and gives,” Bujela said.
The scoring for round one reflected the test, with eight players shooting par or better. There are 15 Sunshine Tour cards on offer this week and Bujela, now in his second year on tour, has put himself in position to earn playing privileges.
“It certainly helps having a year of experience on tour. It’s a huge advantage over some of the amateurs that are here this week, because I’m used to the pressure now,” he said.