“Making one on seven helped a lot. It was playing to 175 metres, so I hit a smooth six-iron and it pitched in the middle of the green. I thought it had rolled over the back, but it was in! From there things were a lot easier,” he said.
The 24-year-old celebrated his birthday two days ago and was in high spirits as he worked his way to a seven-under-par total. In addition to his hole-in-one he made six birdies and an eagle to tie for the lead with his playing partner CJ du Plessis.
“The eagle at 17 was a good way to finish the round, so all-in-all I’m very happy,” said O’Riley. “It helped playing with CJ, because he kept me going. I knew that if I kept up with him then I’d have a good chance.”
The young gun was victorious at Big Easy Kempton Park in 2011 and has since taken four top-10s on the development tour. He lost in a playoff at Big Easy ERPM in 2011 and will look to amend that result this week.
“The hard work has been paying off lately and tomorrow should be good fun – I’ve been in this position before and I’ve got a good history at ERPM. I lost in a Big Easy playoff here in the past, but I also won the Eastern Gauteng under-23 here, so I’m going to head out there and enjoy it,” he said.
Rookie CJ du Plessis has been riding a wave of good form since his third-place finish at Big Easy Copperleaf a week ago. On Wednesday he tackled ERPM with gusto and included an eagle two at the 10th hole for his share of the lead.
“I started well and managed to keep it going over the front nine. I made an eagle at the 10th, which was important in setting up my back nine,” he said.
The 22-year-old from Polokwane carded an outward nine of 32 on his way to a professional best 65 at ERPM on Wednesday. He’ll face plenty of new experiences when he tees up in the final three-ball tomorrow.
“I’ve been working hard on my routines, and my confidence is up at the moment. I’m looking to secure a good position this week ahead of the Tour Championship and I think tomorrow is going to be fun,” he said.
PG van Zyl and Zimbabwe’s Micky Hough shared second place on five-under-par, with Francois Coetzee taking up sole fifth a further stroke off the pace.