Erik van Rooyen only joined the oldest golf club in South Africa in January, but he helped Royal Cape Golf Club start its 130th anniversary celebration with a brand new course-record eight-under-par 64 on Thursday in the first round of the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open.
The 25-year-old Van Rooyen lies 17th on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit thanks to his four top-10 finishes in the 2015 season, and he started the tournament on his home course with nine birdies and just one bogey to join Christiaan Basson in an early two-way share of the lead, two strokes clear of Justin Harding.
“It’s incredibly special to be part of a club that is celebrating its 130th anniversary soon,” said Van Rooyen. “I’ve been a member here since January, and it’s a very proud club. It’s a huge thing to reach that anniversary with golf courses closing left and right these days,” he said.
The history of Royal Cape had its beginning on 14 November 1885 when a meeting, chaired by Lt General Sir Henry Torrens, was held at the Castle “for the purpose of introducing the game of golf and starting a club for the same”. Thus the Cape Golf Club, the first in South Africa, was born.
After starting its life in Wynberg, then moving to Rondebosch Commoin, the final home for the Club was found and in 1905 the move was made to the Ottery site which the club occupies to this day. The official opening took place in 1906.
“Today I guess I got all the members’ bounces,” said Van Rooyen. “The course is in phenomenal condition, so you can expect to make some putts out there. And having played here many times throughout the year, I know where to miss it on each hole, which is a huge advantage. The course is obviously very tree-lined, so if you know where certain spots are that are a little more open, that plays into your hands.
“The conditions were perfect – the best Cape Town can offer. Almost no wind, and it started picking up right around the turn, but it wasn’t a big problem at all. Conditions like that don’t really put pressure on me to capitalise. Obviously, you want to play well but it’s something you can’t really control. I think it’s going to get tougher this week – it looks like there’s some rain that might come in – so I’ve put one up there and I hope I can keep it going.
“I’m happy with all facets of my play. My iron-play was exceptional, especially on my front nine. I got up and down a few times on the back, so the game is in good shape all-in-all.”