Last time he was in Zambia, Justin Harding’s final round four-under-par 68 fell just one shot short of forcing a play-off, and he’s looking for a better finish in the R1.2-million Zambia Sugar Open which tees off on Thursday at Lusaka Golf Club.
He finished in a share of second in the Mopani Copper Mines Zambia Open in Kitwe on May 18 behind veteran Wallie Coetsee who took his first title in 17 years, and Harding followed that with a solid performance for a share of 13th in the Lombard Insurance Classic in Swaziland on May 25.
“It was a nice result I had in Kitwe,” he said, “and I hope I can build on it. This is a happy hunting ground for me, and I’m back to being healthy again. I had a stint of three or four weeks when I was playing through a few injuries, and that wasn’t the best idea. So I’m pleased to be making a full committed golf swing.”
Harding won the 2012 Indo Zambia Bank Zambia Open at Lusaka Golf Club in his most successful season to date on the Sunshine Tour, and he has been winless since that third of his three titles on the tour – not a satisfactory state of affairs for him.
“It’s been a while,” he laughed. “I certainly am looking for another win. I gave myself a chance up in Kitwe, but, to be fair, I think I was a little too far back going into the final round. But it was nice being up there again and I hope the happy memories I have around this place will bring back a little of my mojo.”
The course is a little softer on the fairways than he remembers it, but the small greens are firmer. “The greens are a little bit quicker than I’m used to here, but all in all, it’s looking very good,” he said. “It’s a bit of an awkward little golf course. It’s very tight and there’s a lot of dog-leg and shape to it and you definitely have to manage your way around.”
The issue for Harding is whether he is patient enough to manage his way around. “You just have to be,” he laughed.
He’ll certainly have to be in the face of the threat posed by 2013 Zambia Sugar Open champion Adilson Da Silva, who is one of the most patient players on the Sunshine Tour.
It could be a fascinating contrast of styles.