Erik van Rooyen made a blazing start to his Sunshine Tour career at the Polokwane Classic, where he carded a first-round 69 to share the early lead in his first-ever South African tournament.
“It was a lot of fun, especially going four-under through nine holes. It’s great to be up front, because I just told myself to accept whatever comes my way, and I shot three-under, so I’m pretty happy,” he said.
The 23-year-old finished 13th at the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School in January, but immediately headed for Minnesota, where he’s spent the last five months.
He made up for lost time on Thursday, carding an opening 69 to join Ryan Cairns, John Bele and Drikus van der Walt at the top of the leaderboard.
“I played college golf in America and had one semester left to finish my degree,” explained van Rooyen. “I went to the Sunshine Tour QSchool to get my card and then headed back, but now I’m looking to spend six months here and, hopefully, I’ll retain my card.”
The Douglas resident captained the University of Minnesota Golf Team and was also the Minnesota amateur State Champion prior to turning professional.
“The competition in America is really tough,” he said. “You play a lot of tough courses and that teaches you how to stay in control of your nerves, which definitely helped today.
“The Sunshine Tour is a good place to wet my feet. Hopefully I’ll make some money here, and then the plan is to head back to The States and try for the Web.com Tour.”
Also off to a good start was John Bele, a journeyman of the Sunshine Tour who has been competing since 1996. The happy 39-year-old made his way to the clubhouse in 69 strokes to share the clubhouse lead.
“When we started we didn’t think it was possible to shoot low, but we kept going and I holed some good putts. That kept the scores coming,” he explained.
Ryan Cairns has missed just two cuts in 11 starts this season. With two top-10s and a handful of promising results, the Royal Harare Golf Club professional will look to capitalise on his good start in Polokwane.
“I’m in a really good place with my game and it’s starting to pay off. Of my last 21 rounds I’ve broken par 20 times, and it’s nice to know I can string three scores together. That’s in the back of your mind, and it’s good to be in that space,” he said.
Completing the four-way tie for first was Drikus van der Walt, who had to rally after carding bogeys at the fourth and fifth, but made a solid comeback in the wind to reach the clubhouse on three-under.