Divan Gerber sank his eagle putt from off the green on the 18th at Ebotse Golf Estate on Wednesday to snatch a one-stroke lead during round one of the Big Easy Tour Championship presented by Stonehage.
“It’s great to finish with an eagle,” he said. “I hit a six-iron approach from 209 metres that stopped four metres short of the green. I didn’t have to think twice about pulling out the putter and hitting a texas wedge. It went straight in.”
The wind made scoring tricky at Ebotse’s inland links setup. Gerber was the only player in the 30-man field without a bogey on his card, which helped him carve out a five-under-par 67 for round one.
“It’s a links at the end of the day and you have to keep it in play. I’m just playing fairway and green, not hitting unnecessary drivers and trying to take gaps,” said the 25-year-old.
The top 30 earners from the regular Big Easy season qualify for the Tour Championship, which carries a R250,000 prize pool. At the end of the tournament the top five players on the Order of Merit receive Sunshine Tour cards for the 2014 season.
Gerber’s goal for the week was to win one of those five golden tickets.
“Today was a great round and I’m finally playing well again. I’m in a bit of a bad situation on the main tour and haven’t had the best year. The card is up for grabs and I don’t think I’m that far away, so hopefully we can go forward from here and bring it home,” he said.
The Bethlehem local made good headway on Wednesday, beginning with an outward nine of 34 strokes that included birdies at the third and seventh.
On the back nine Gerber kept the round ticking over with a run of six pars before birdieing the par-four 16th to reach three-under. His eagle three at the last gave him the outright lead.
Heading up the chase was 24-year-old Derik Ferreira, who made two eagles on the back nine to reach the clubhouse in four-under-par 68.
“They moved the tee up on the par-four 13th and it was playing downwind, so it was reachable. I made the green with a three-wood and then sank a nice 20-footer for eagle, which got me going. And then on the 18th I hit an eight-iron just short of the green and managed to chip it in, which helps!” he smiled.
Blustery conditions tested the Copperleaf professional, but he hung tough and finished the round one shot off the pace.
“The wind was definitely a big factor, because it keeps you thinking. There are still two days to go and there is plenty of golf to be played, but hopefully this is a step in the right direction,” he said.