Justin’s chase falls just short of Windhoek lead

Justin Walters made a charge at the first round lead of the R1.2-million MTC Namibia PGA Championship, but a bogey on the 18th brought him up just two strokes short.

Instead, he had to be satisfied with a share of second behind Vaughn Groenewald, whose eight-under-par 63 on the soggy 6,570-metre par-71 Windhoek Country Club looked invulnerable for most of the day.

He shared second with Christiaan Basson on six-under-par 65 and with Prinavin Nelson, who converted his fine play in the previous day’s pro-am into a good score in the company of fellow-professionals.

Walters was mighty impressive in his pursuit of Groenewald’s target, however: He reached the fourth hole in level-par after he birdied the third and bogeyed the fourth.

Then he set about the course which was playing long because of heavy recent rains and which was even more threatening thanks to long rough. He made four consecutive birdies from five to eight, took a breather with a par on nine, made another birdie on 10 and then eagled the 497-metre par-five 11th.

Birdies then were kind of tough to find, especially as an afternoon thunderstorm had the players off the course for an hour-and-a-half in the middle of the afternoon. He didn’t make another, and he dropped a shot on 18, faltering where others did throughout the day.

Groenewald, however, did no such thing. “I’ve changed my whole mindset,” he said. “I’m here to enjoy it more and play aggressive golf. I’m not taking irons off tees – I’m taking driver and just trusting myself, and that’s why I’m playing well.”

The approach paid off as he started with a birdie on the 10th, and eagle on the 11th and another birdie on the 12th.

He made one more birdie ahead of the turn, reached in five-under 31, and then three in a row from the fifth to the seventh on his inward nine for a round which laid down a marker for the rest of the field.

“I always battle in the first rounds of tournaments,” he said, “but today I got a good start and hit the ball on the fairways and the greens.

“The course just suits me,” he added. “It’s all right to left, so I can just aim it right and draw it in.”

The leading Namibian was Joe Nawanga, who was steady throughout his round with three birdies on his opening nine. He looked to be heading for a really good score with successive birdies on his third-last and second-last holes, but then a bogey-four on the 178-metre ninth saw him finish on four-under.

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