“I don’t have a driver in the bag this week… I’m only hitting three-wood,” he said. “The fairways are narrow here and the more you can hit them, the better you’ll score.”
The 24-year-old has matured since his maiden victory at the Polokwane Classic and on Friday he plotted his way to five-under-par, sharing the early lead with Oliver Bekker and Graham van der Merwe.
Burmester has made 15 cuts in 20 starts this season and ranks 24th on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit. With the lucrative summer events waiting just around the corner he was pleased to shoot 67 at Glendower, which will host the South African Open Championship in a month’s time.
“I’m preparing for the SA Open,” said the Bloemfontein local. “The fairways are narrow here and the rough is only going to get thicker, so extra preparation is important.”
The Big Easy Tour graduate made four consecutive birdies at the start of his round and then reached the turn in 32 strokes. The wind picked up as the day progressed and Burmester’s scoring slowed down after he bogeyed the 10th, but he restored the round with birdies at the 12th and 15th and secured the clubhouse lead.
Chasing his maiden win was Graham van der Merwe, who pencilled in four birdies on the back stretch before signing for 67. The 22-year-old has starred on some big stages in his two years on tour, most notably finishing tied-eighth at the €1,5-million Tshwane Open in March.
“I felt pretty calm and in control today. My whole game was solid, so I’m happy with five-under. It’s nice to get a good start ahead of summer, so hopefully I can keep it going,” he said.
Also in the hunt was Oliver Bekker, a three-time Sunshine Tour winner who competed at the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The big man from Stellenbosch had an electric front nine that contained only two pars. Birdies at the first, second, fourth, seventh and eighth, combined with bogeys at the third and sixth, meant a frenetic outward nine of 33 strokes.
The 28-year-old rallied on the back nine and made birdies at the 14th, 16th and 17th to reach the clubhouse in a share of the morning lead.
“The course is playing tough with the wind blowing, and if you gave me five-under at the start of the round I would have said thank you, so I’m happy with the score,” he said.
One stroke off the pace and sharing fourth were Merrick Bremner and Riekus Nortje, both of whom recorded top-10 finishes at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final one week ago.