Francois heads up qualifiers for De Zalze

Francois Coetzee got into his seventh Sunshine Tour tournament for the year when he topped the leaderboard in the pre-qualifier for the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at De Zalze Golf Club on Tuesday.

Coetzee, 22, carded a five-under-par 67 to head up the list of 10 players who made it into the field of the R600,000 54-hole tournament, the third in the annual Vodacom Origins of Golf series this year.

He has missed five cuts in his rookie year, but managed to finish in a share of 39th at the Indo Zambia Bank Zambia Open last month to earn his first cheque as a professional.

He turned professional after the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School in December last year, turning his back on an amateur career which included representing South Africa at the 2011 Universiade in Shenzen, China where the team finished 11th.

“It’s pretty tough out there,” he conceded after he had headed off Wynand Dingle by two strokes, with Botswana’s Stuart Smith and South African Francois Haughton sharing third at two-under-par 70.

Sunshine Big Easy Tour Order of Merit leader Rikus Nortje was next best, in a share of fifth with fellow rookie Ruan de Smidt and the Eastern Cape’s Mark Fensham.

There was a seven-way playoff for the three remaining spots, with Stuart Clark of Wales, Steven van Heerden and Bennie van der Merwe coming out on top over Danie van Tonder, Derick Petersen, Brent Kirstein and Michael Hollick.

Like many of those players, Coetzee has been playing on the Big Easy Tour – which consists of 36-hole events without a cut – in his rookie year in an attempt to gain experience for the tougher tournaments on the Sunshine Tour.

“It definitely helps to play those tournaments,” he said. “It gives you a chance to play a tournament without the pressure of qualifying or missing the cut, and knowing you can get those competitive rounds in makes quite a difference.”

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