Durban great for Bekker after solid start

Johan Bekker was quick out the gates and carded four birdies through his first six holes before closing with the early lead in round one of the Suncoast Classic at Durban Country Club on Thursday

Bekker moved to five-under-par after carding a solid 67 for the first round of the R500,000 event and holds a one-stroke clubhouse lead over Willie van der Merwe, Keenan Davidse and Josh Cunliffe.

Bekker found he could stay calm during the round. “The hard work is paying off and everything is going great,” he said.

The 26-year-old carded eight birdies in windy conditions, but also made three bogeys during his round and closed the day at five-under-par.

Bekker stayed relaxed throughout the round, even when he dropped at both the 16th and 17th. “I went out there with a conservative gameplan and it helped a lot,” he said.

At the 16th he struggled with his three-iron off the tee, found a bunker with his second shot and two-putted for the first drop of his round.

On the following hole he hit a bad second shot out of a fairway bunker and carded his second bogey, but quickly recovered the stroke with a birdie at the 18th and made the turn at three-under.

“At this course it’s just about keeping it in play and making putts. There are plenty of birdies out there,” said Bekker.

Van der Merwe, who played alongside Bekker, was inconsistent across his front nine and carded three birdies and three bogeys before making the turn at level-par.

But van der Merwe cut his mistakes on the front nine, which was his back stretch, and signed for his 68 after making four further birdies.

Josh Cunliffe, who tied for 13th at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final in September, carded 34 on either side of the turn to sign for his 68 and an early share of second.

Keenan Davidse had a solid round and carded no bogeys. An eagle at the 10th and birdies at the eighth and 15th secured his 68 for the day.

Warren Abery, a six-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, made his way round in 69 after carding a hattrick of birdies from the 12th to the 14th. He holds a share of fifth with Tjaart van der Walt and rookie Dean O’Riley at three-under-par.

O’Riley was hampered by bogeys on his front nine and turned at level-par, but went on to shoot 33 for his second nine to close the day at three-under-par.

Bekker has worked hard on his game and this morning’s round announced him as a serious contender in Durban.

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