Reigning SA Amateur Stroke Play champion Jared Harvey laid down an early marker for the Freddie Tait Cup awarded to the leading amateur when he opened up a yawning gap on the other amateurs challenging at this yearÂs South African Open Championship.
Harvey got his first round at the Jack Nicklaus championship layout at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate going with a string of three successive birdies and, after a slight mid-round stumble, collected another birdie and an eagle two to sign off on a four-under-par 68.
The 23-year-old amateur from Mount Edgecombe is just three shots off the pace from pacesetters, ScotlandÂs Steven OÂHara and JbeÂ Kruger from South Africa.
ÂI would have taken one-or two-under at the start of the round, so this was definitely a great round of golf for me,Â said Harvey.
Harvey shares the four under mark with a dozen professionals including DenmarkÂs Soren Hansen, AustraliaÂs Mark Brown, Jean-Baptiste Gonnet from France and former SA Open champions David Frost, Thomas Aiken and George Coetzee, among others.
ÂNot bad company to keep at the South African Open,Â said Harvey, who continues to ride a rich vein of form.
Just over a week ago, the KZN golfer and fellow amateur Graham van der Merwe rallied to a third place finish in the Juan Carlos Tailhade Cup in Argentina. Three days later, Harvey qualified for the Argentine Amateur at the San Isidro Golf Club in Buenos Aires and made it all the way to the semi-final round.
ÂIÂm definitely playing some of my best golf at the moment,Â said Harvey.
ÂIf I look at my whole round, I made two bad decisions Â the bogeys at the fourth and ninth. Both bogeys was the result of poor tee shots and around this track, you have to take your punishment if you hit a bad shot off the tee. ÂAs for the rest of the round, IÂm really happy with the kind of form IÂve got.Â
Harvey said the turning point in his round actually came at the par-four 14th.
ÂI was between a six-or seven-iron. In the end I went with a hard seven and paid the price. The ball plugged in the back of the greenside bunker and my only shot was back to the fairway. I stood over the ball and my caddie said: ÂJust hole it.Â ÂI hit a great little pitch shot into the green and holed it.
ÂI was definitely looking at making bogey or even double bogey and that par-save gave me the world of confidence. ThatÂs really where the birdie on 15 and the eagle on 17 came from.Â
Lean Boezaart, the only other amateur to break par, carded a one-under-par 71 to tie for 64th.
South AfricaÂs number one and two ranked amateurs, Brandon Stone and Haydn Porteous, carded 73s to tie for 98th, while number three Ruan de Smidt carded a 75 for a share of 132nd.
ScotlandÂs Michael Stewart, the reigning SA Amateur champion, signed off on a two over 74.