Pieter Moolman, Teboho Sefatsa, Makhetha Mazibuko and amateur Aubrey Beckley carded opening rounds of five-under-par 67 to lead the Sunshine Big Easy – Irene by one-stroke from a bunched chasing pack.
Moolman was one of the early morning starters at Irene Country Club, and like previous weeks on tour, conditions were cold and challenging.
“This morning was tough and it was really cold, but I’ve been putting well and hitting the ball well, so it was bound to come together sometime,” explained Moolman.
With temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius, Moolman highlighted how important it was to get the ball in play for the first few holes.
“When it’s that cold you just have to concentrate on hitting the golf ball, because if you hit it thin then you’re not going to have hands for a few holes,” he said, smiling.
The bogey-free performance was something Moolman was particularly pleased with, and the 25-year-old said the soft course had a part to play in his flawless round.
“It’s a clean card with no drops, so I’m really happy. The course is nice and the greens are rolling at a nice pace. It’s quite a soft golf course for winter, so it’s playing really nicely,” explained Moolman.
Beckley got off to a scintillating birdie-eagle-birdie start, and the 22-year-old was ecstatic with his superb start to round one of the tournament.
“Yeah I played nicely, and I started of really nicely. I was four-under after three holes, which was a pretty cool start. I went through a little bit of a struggle, but I kept it together nicely in the end,” explained Beckley.
Still carrying his amateur status, Beckley is looking to learn from his time on the Big Easy Tour, and it’s a process he is enjoying.
“I’ve played here a couple times before so I know the course reasonably well. I must say the greens do differ from the amateur golf I’ve played here. From what I saw today, the greens were really good. They were a bit faster, which I like quite a lot,” said Beckley.
Similarly to Beckley, Sefatsa got off to a flying start, making an eagle-two on the opening par-four first hole at Irene Country Club.
“I loved it out there. I got off to a perfect start on the first hole – had a two-club. I hit a good drive, had 56 into the hole, birdied the next and it just set me up for the rest of the round,” explained Sefatsa.
With the shorter two-day format of the big Easy tournaments, players need to be aggressive, and Sefatsa says it’s something he enjoys.
“You’ve got to be quite aggressive with the shorter format and I actually quite enjoy it. You know it helps you get out the blocks quicker and unlike a four-day tournament where you’re trying to pace yourself; you really need to get going in these two rounds to get on top here,” said Sefatsa.
After last weeks second place finish at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, Mazibuko produced another brilliant display of golf, with only one dropped shot in his round.
“Yeah my golf is getting better and I’ve been spending more time with my coach. I putted well today and I’m really happy with the 67. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow and we’ll take it from there,” said Mazibuko.