Rookie JP Strydom was amped up on Friday after getting his first-ever taste of what itÂs like to lead a tournament, and it was no less than the R3,75-million Telkom PGA Championship.
ÂItÂs a good experience, and I didnÂt think IÂd be leading a tournament in my rookie season, so itÂs good fun. Getting off to a quick start helps a bit, so IÂll just carry on tomorrow,Â he said.
The 21-year-old was all smiles after shooting 64 at the Woodmead course of Country Club Johannesburg, which took him to eight-under-par and joint first alongside Ulrich van den Berg.
ÂI was hitting the ball well and made a couple of putts, which helped,Â said Strydom. ÂIt was just keeping the ball in play and making the putts, but you have to play fearless golf at this course.Â
Since finishing 16th at Sunshine Tour Qualifying School, the Durbanville Golf Club representative played his way into the Joburg Open, where he subsequently missed the cut.
He then went on to the Dimension Data Pro-Am, where he strung together four solid rounds to finish tied 54th, taking home the first cheque of his career.
This year has plenty of learning curves for the newcomers to professional golf, yet Strydom is taking massive steps early on in the year. His share of the first-round lead will provide invaluable experience to such a rising star.
Six-time winner Van den Berg was prepared for a full week of work, and looked forward to building his campaign for the PGA Championship trophy on an eight-under-par foundation.
He was keen to get his name etched on the trophy, which already bears the names of the likes of Louis Oosthuizen and George Coetzee. That wonÂt happen without four good rounds, and if anyone knows it, itÂs 38-year-old Van den Berg.
ÂThe score says it all, and although I have found some good form over the last couple of weeks itÂs nice to do it when it counts,Â he said. ÂItÂs still a long way to go and scoring is always going to be low around here. IÂll take it one day at a time, because IÂve got a lot of hard work to go, but itÂs nice to put those numbers together.Â
Chris Swanepoel, famous for his three Sunshine Tour wins and his bold trousers, posted 65 early in the afternoon. He was a birdie factory on Thursday, producing six in a row around the turn before finishing up the round at seven-under-par. He was later joined by Le Roux Ferreira and the pair shared third.
Ferreira is also fresh out of Sunshine Tour Qualifying School and spent his college years playing golf at Lamar University in Texas, which has produced the likes of Oliver Bekker and Justin Harding. HeÂs played professional golf since 2010, but his 65 is the first real chance heÂs had at breaking through on any tour.
Morning starters Keenan Davidse and EnglandÂs Steve Surry finished in a share of fifth on six-under, followed by an eight-man tie for seventh place.