Rookie Desne van den Bergh was elated after shooting a first-round 67 at Lusaka Golf Club to claim the early lead at the Zambia Sugar Open on Thursday.
“I played well today, especially on the front nine. It’s the first time that I’m leading, and it’s good to do have this experience at a tournament like the Zambia Open,” he said.
The 23-year-old made six birdies during his round at the par-73 course, which earned him a two-stroke lead halfway through the first round of the R1,2-million tournament.
"I am pretty pleased with my round, and I plan to enjoy my time in contention and play my own game. We’ll have to see what happens!" he said.
Finding fairways is crucial at the 6607-metre track and Van den Bergh had to pull off two superb shots from the rough in order to avoid making bogeys during his final three holes.
“I hit it into the trees at seventh and the eighth today and had really tough shots, so it was great to play it onto the green and walk off with par at both of those holes. That really gave me confidence” he explained.
Chasing the lead was Ulrich van den Berg, who carded a four-under-par 69 containing only birdies. The Sunshine Tour veteran has been in form since the beginning of the year and looks set for a good week in Zambia.
“The course is in good shape and scoring is going to be solid. I’ve been playing well since the Telkom PGA Championship and hopefully I can put four good rounds together this week. You have to just keep knocking on the door, because you never know when the right week will come,” he explained.
The 38-year-old shared second with Jacques Blaauw and Alex Haindl, who also carded 69s for the first round.
Leading the local charge was Patrick Mwendapole, who shot a respectable 72 for an early share of 19th. The Chilanga Golf Club professional made just one birdie during the round and felt that he could have scored much lower.
“On the front nine I hit eight greens in regulation and thought I could nail some putts, but I struggled to score. I am not surprised to be shooting one-under, and I think it could even get better,” he said.
“It’s always a pleasure to play on home soil, and we all come to this tournament to win. I am trying my level best to take a top-five finish, so we’ll have to wait and see what the week brings.”