“It was a tough day. The wind was blowing hard and you really had to focus out there. It’s about keeping it in play this week, but my par saves were the most important part of the round,” he said.
The tall 23-year-old played intelligent golf around the 7360-metre track and made no bogeys during the first round, which helped him pull two strokes clear of Pieter Moolman.
“I putted well the whole day,” said van den Bergh. “And when I missed the green I managed to make it up and down. I hit a lot of chips to three or four feet and made those putts, which really kept my round going.”
The young gun picked up quick birdies at the second and fourth holes, which helped him settle into a rhythm as he made his way to the turn at two-under-par.
Some crucial up-and-downs kept his round going and soon the birdies started to come, first at the 10th and then again at the 12th and 16th. Two steady pars to finish left van den Bergh smiling at five-under-par in the clubhouse.
This week’s R100 000 tournament is sponsored by International Sports Management (ISM). With the likes of Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace on its books, it’s no surprise that the company has a keen interest in golf development in South Africa. Speaking on the company’s behalf was Managing Director Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler.
“Hopefully we will be able to help the next generation as they strive to bring their game up to the level required for success on the bigger stages in their country and around the world.”
Copperleaf hosted the €1,5-million Tshwane Open in February and is hailed as a true test of golf. The course is long, especially from the tips, and to shoot par when the wind is up is a real challenge. On Tuesday only 14 of the 110 players competing shot 72 or better.
Van den Bergh’s opening 67 was a great achievement, but the Vaal de Grace Golf Estate professional has already impressed during his rookie season, most notably with his tied-fourth finish at the Zambia Sugar Open.
“I played well in Zambia and stayed close to the lead throughout that week, so I’m keen to see what tomorrow brings for me,” he said.
Pieter Moolman was one of the few to shine in the blustery afternoon conditions and played his way to sole second on three-under-par. He was followed by Musiwalo Nethunzwi, CJ du Plessis, Attie Schwartzel and Jacques Kruyswijk, who shared third on two-under-par.
Nethunzwi had a strange run on Tuesday, starting with a double-bogey six at the second hole. The 24-year-old went on to make birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie over his next four holes and turned at three-under, but further bogeys at the 12th and the 15th halted his charge and he finished up the round on two-under.