It was two ‘old pros’ in Drikus van der Walt (right) and Juan Langeveld who led the first round of the 2014 Sunshine Tour Qualifying School at Bloemfontein Golf Club and the neighbouring Schoeman Park Golf Club on Tuesday.
Although neither of them is by any means a grizzled veteran – Langeveld turns 31 next month and Van der Walt is just 24 – they have seven years of experience between them on the Sunshine Tour and that showed as they carded six-under-par 66s on the 7,302-metre Bloemfontein Golf Club to hold a one-stroke edge over Gideon Pienaar, the man who scored best with a 67 on the 7,152-metre Schoeman Park.
There are 236 entrants who will have to play two rounds on each of the Bloemfontein Golf Club and Schoeman Park courses ahead of the cut to 60 players and those tying on that score, and, after a final round at Bloemfontein Golf Club, the top 30 players and ties will get their Sunshine Tour cards.
Van der Walt, who earned his biggest pay cheque as a professional in the 2012 Telkom PGA Championship with his share of 24th, has three top-10s on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour, but his 118th-place finish on the 2013 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit left him 18 places adrift of gaining his 2014 playing privileges.
He started his campaign to get a spot on the tour in the best possible way with a bogey-free round which included birdies on all four of the par-fives. He picked up the other two on the par-four 10th and the par-four 15th on his way in to secure his share of the lead.
Langeveld made an eagle-three on the par-five 14th, five birdies and a bogey-four on the eighth.
Pienaar, who plays out of Irene Country Club, dropped shots at Schoeman Park’s seventh and 14th, but seven birdies helped him to a one-stroke edge at Schoeman Park over Randpark’s Rhys West and local Schoeman Park boy Jacques de Villiers.
“I’ve played here so much – every day, actually,” said De Villiers. “I know both the courses very well, and I’m looking forward to my rounds at Bloemfontein too. It’s great to be able to take part in a tournament as important to me as this and to be able to sleep at home.”
Also on four-under-par were Zimbabwe’s Sheldon Steyn and another Sunshine Tour ‘veteran’, Louis Calitz.
The top amateurs after the first round were South Africans Bryce Bibby of Royal Durban, Ryan Birnie of Durban Country Club and Parys Golf Club’s Stefan Erasmus, all on three-under-par 69.