The R4.5-million tournament celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and Fichardt remembers playing in the maiden tournament back in 1995 when it was still held at Sun City.
“I’ve been playing this event from the beginning and you build relationships. It’s a special tournament and playing it feels like you’re meeting friends and keeping it light-hearted,” he said.
Since 2010 the Dimension Data Pro-Am has been held at Fancourt, with a round played at each of the Montagu, Outeniqua and The Links courses. There is a 54-hole cut and a final round played on Montagu.
The Links has a rich history and in 2012 it hosted the Volvo Golf Champions, which Branden Grace won after beating his childhood heroes Retief Goosen and Ernie Els. On Friday the 26-year-old capped off his round with an eagle, birdie, birdie finish and carded 68 on his home track.
“I’ve got some great memories here. I finished on top with two giants here and you always go back to those moments when it gets tough. That’s how I managed end the round so well today,” he said.
In 2012 Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts ripped up the back nine at The Links in 30 blows to set a course record of nine-under-par 64. At the 2013 Dimension Data Pro-Am Jaco van Zyl matched the record when he chipped in for eagle at the 18th.
This Friday Fichardt came within one of that score. His eight-under-par round included a run of five consecutive birdies from the 13th to the 17th, but the highlight of his day was an eagle at the ninth.
“I hit that driver very far. I had to kill a drive and when I got to my ball I still had 270 yards to the hole. The wind was straight across, so I aimed for the bunker on the left and I really smashed the ball. It was tracking that bunker and the wind just brought it across to about six foot. That really set up the back stretch,” he said.
It set the tone for a back nine of 31 and the four-time European Tour winner grabbed a three-shot cushion halfway through the tournament.
“I was struggling to hit the ball close and I managed to get a swing thought going on the ninth tee and it worked from there. We’ll try to keep that for the next two days and start the year well,” he said.