De Jager closes fast to share lead at Sun City

Louis de Jager said he lost his golf swing midway through the first round of the R500,000 Nashua Golf Challenge, but he found it over the final three holes to finish in a share of the lead.

He shared top spot on the leaderboard on Thursday with Vaughn Groenewald at three-under-par 69 on the 7,162-metre Gary Player Country Club.

“I had it going nicely on the front nine,” he said after he started his round on the 10th, “but I lost my golf swing at the start of the second nine and make three stupid bogeys when I hit it in the bush and had to chip out.

“And then I had a real strong finish,” he added without a hint of irony of his birdie-birdie-birdie dash to the line.

“On seven, I hit a good tee shot and just chipped it in,” he said, “on eight I just hit it to gimme distance, and on nine I laid up and hit a good pitch shot.”

So, on three of the more difficult holes on the course, he pulled himself back into contention.

Groenewald took a slice of luck and turned it into a share of the first-round lead.

After making a good up-and-down par on the first, and then getting up and down again on the 520-metre par-five second for birdie, he escaped trouble by a stroke of good fortune.

“On the third hole, I actually got lucky,” he said, “because I hit it left and it was going straight in the bush, but it hit a Nashua signboard and just stopped.”

He managed to salvage par there, and three more birdies and just one bogey in his round saw him master the challenging course better than his nearest competitors.

A group of six players finished on two-under-par 70, including 2009 champion Doug McGuigan, on a day when some of the players were really stymied by the challenges the course had to offer.

The winner of last week’s Sunshine Tour tournament in Swaziland, Justin Walters made an eight on the 545-metre ninth on his way to a five-over-par 77.

The man who was runner-up to Walters last week, Divan van den Heever, fared a little better, and he signed for a three-over 75, but that leaves him six shots off the pace in the 54-hole event.

Groenewald battled in Swaziland last week with new irons from his sponsor. “The lie angle felt really strange so I’m back with my old ones,” he said.

“I started hitting good iron shots in the right places after that bogey,” said Vaughn, and he managed to pick up one more birdie on the 10th before coming home with pars all the way.

With McGuigan on two-under were Theunis Spangenberg, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Adilson Da Silva, qualifier Lyle Rowe and rookie Dean O’Riley.

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