Bryce Easton led 10 qualifiers into this weekÂs Alfred Dunhill Championship when he won the pre-qualifying round on Tuesday at Irene Country Club.
Easton, a 24-year-old Sunshine Tour rookie, carded a five-under-par 67 to head up the players who headed off to Leopard Creek for the Â1-million event co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour.
His round with seven birdies and two bogeys lifted him three shots clear of the nearest opposition, with seven players carding two-under-par 70 Â South Africans Dean Burmester, Darryn Lloyd, Nico van Rensburg, Callie Swart and Ryan Tipping, as well as SwitzerlandÂs Robert Wiederkehr and Peter Wilson of England.
David Hewan and Tyrone Ryan of South Africa made up the balance of the players who got through the qualifier with their 71s, while countrymen Wandile Gininda, Brett Liddle, Ryan Thompson, Michael du Toit, Lyle Rowe, Bennie van der Merwe, Morne Buys, Teboho Sefatsa, Reggie Adams, JJ Senekal and Mark Fensham all missed out after a marathon playoff when they, too, finished on 71.
Easton spent much of his time on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage, winning his first tournament as a professional when he took the opening event of the new series designed to help young professionals get used to the tough competitive conditions they will face on the Sunshine Tour.
That experience certainly helped Easton, who managed a second-place finish in SeptemberÂs Northern Cape Classic in Kimberley Â his best showing on the Sunshine Tour. He also had a top-10 showing the month before, finishing fourth in the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Sishen.
Swart and Ryan won events on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage, the former at Houghton Golf Club and the latter at Irene Country Club. Burmester finished second in the Order of Merit and took second place at two events, punctuating the contribution to golf development that the Tour made this year.
The Alfred Dunhill Championship will be played at Leopard Creek for the eighth time, and two-time winner Pablo Martin of Spain gets his title defence underway on Thursday.
The event will be televised live on SuperSport1 and SuperSport HD from 13h30 on the opening day.