There are five Italians in the field for the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School being played at Bloemfontein Golf Club and Schoeman Park Golf Club, and none fared better than Alessandro Grammatica with his seven-under-par 65 in the opening round on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old who was born in San Remo and turned professional in 2010 signed off on a bogey-free round at Bloemfontein Golf Club to hold a one-stroke edge over Rourke van der Spuy, who carded his six-under-par 66 at Schoeman Park.
The 240 hopefuls have to play two rounds on each of the course ahead of the 72-hole cut after Friday’s play, after which the remaining 60 players and those equalling the cut score will do battle for the 30 Sunshine Tour cards for the 2015 season.
“Today, I think the putter was the key,” said Grammatica after his round. “From the tee I didn’t miss many fairways, but I made two putts today from 50 feet, so that certainly helped.”
He made three birdies on his outward nine after starting on the 10th, and then four more on his way in.
Van der Spuy’s round included a bogey, five birdies and an eagle, and behind him was veteran Michael Scholz with a five-under-par 67 on Bloemfontein Golf Club, together with Justin Turner, who carded his 67 at Schoeman Park. One further back was a group of six players – Otto van Greunen, Etienne Bond, Werner van Niekerk, Jack Harrison, Stefan de Beer and Patrick Newcomb – on four-under-par.
For Grammatica, things couldn’t be going better. “It’s my first time in South Africa,” he said. “I really like it here. It’s a beautiful place, and the tournament is really well organised. If I get my card, I’d like to stay here in South Africa. If one or more of my friends make it, it would be better for me, because although it’s not expensive to play professionally in South Africa compared to Europe, it would be good to be able to share things like car rental and travel costs.”
He and his Italian friends arrived in South Africa on January 2, and have been practicing in Johannesburg ahead of the Qualifying School.
“I’ve played in Europe on the Alps Tour, and it’s my sixth year as a professional. It’s been a long time, and I’d like to play on some better tour, like the Sunshine Tour. I haven’t won on the Alps Tour, and my best position was second – twice.
“But I’d like to play here – it’s a big dream.”