PGA Tour campaigner Tim Clark was at his best, his 77-year-old host Gary Player matched him on an individual score, Coca-Cola executives Alex Maditsi and Doug Jackson were impressive, and Irish pop star Brian McFadden made his first birdie in months on a thrilling first day of the Gary Player Invitational charity tournament at Zimbali Country Club on Saturday.
On a steamy day on the KwaZulu-Natal coast, the team of Clark, Kenny Dalglish, Maditsi and Jackson stormed to a commanding 90 points, opening up a five-point lead on the rest of the field.
Their nearest challengers are the team of double senior Major champion Roger Chapman, South African cricket legend Shaun Pollock and businessmen Chuck Colton and Joe Ralebepa on 85 points.
ÂShaun played such great golf out there it was hard knowing who the pro in the team was,Â Chapman said of his scratch handicap teammate.
ÂI loved it,Â said Pollock, who was on the winning team here last year. ÂWeÂve got a job trying to catch the leaders, but we might just have to find Tim Clark and Kenny Dalglish at tonightÂs function and make sure something happens to them before tomorrow.Â
In joint third place are the teams of Player, actor Jack Wagner and businessmen Carlos Pires Oliveira Dias and André Pires Oliveira Dias; and Ladies European Tour professional Carly Booth, singer McFadden and businessmen Greg Whittaker and Steve Phytides on 83 points.
On an individual level, Clark certainly showed that his elbow injury is a thing of the past as he prepares for the 2013 PGA Tour season, shooting 66 on Saturday. But it was a great contest between him and nine-time Major champion Player, who also produced a sublime score of 66 with four birdies in a row from the third hole.
But as a team, Clark and co. were untouchable on day one, finishing off with a six-pointer on the last. ÂItÂs always nice to finish strong. It makes the evening that much better,Â said Clark. His business partner Jackson paid tribute to his great golf. ÂTim was incredibly solid, and that made the difference for us.Â
However, the individual round of the day had to go to Player for his 66. ÂIÂm thrilled to have broken my age by 11 shots,Â he said.
McFadden was in high spirits after making a magnificent birdie for his team on the 17th, where he hit 3 wood, 3 wood and 3 wood again to just over the back of the green and then rolled in a monstrous putt that sent even Booth jumping into his arms.
ÂI think thatÂs my first birdie in about nine years,Â said the former Westlife star, who earlier said his golf is so bad that his charity role this weekend is to donate golf balls to the local economy.
It was a great finish to his round, which hit a bit of a stumble on the par-three ninth hole where his tee shot barely cleared the ladies tee. ÂYouÂre better off laying up on this hole anyway,Â he said of the shot.
His partner Phytides was happy they were able to remain in contention after the first day. ÂWe were always in it and fighting hard, which was nice. We had one really bad hole when we made just two points on the 14th, but other than that we combined well as a team.Â
Actress Angie Everhart was one of the stars in her team of Ian Woosnam, and businessmen Christian Karg and Brad Caufield as they finished off the day on 76 points.
ÂWe had a great start, a bit of a lull in the middle and a good finish,Â said Everhart, who was delighted to have contributed four birdies of her own and celebrated with a cartwheel across the 17th green. ÂBut I must say, it was pretty intimidating standing on the tee next to a legend like Ian Woosnam.Â
And former Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance had an enjoyable day alongside football star Ian Wright, and businessmen Gideon du Plessis and Nick Jonsson as they started with 75 points.
ÂWe had a great time,Â said Torrance. ÂThe team was dead easy to lead. They just do whatever I tell them. I wish my wife was the same.Â