Martin du Toit had his wife Marielle on his mind during the first round of Zambia Sugar Open, and that inspired him to a Thursday 66 and the first-round lead at Lusaka Golf Club.
“First of all it’s my wife’s birthday today, and this round is for her. Everything went my way today, especially with the putter, and I hope to keep it going through the week,” he smiled.
Du Toit runs a successful coaching academy, but on Thursday he gave lessons straight from the par-73 course, reaching seven-under-par and moving one shot clear of Adilson Da Silva and Desne van den Bergh.
“I made nine birdies today,” laughed du Toit. “I’ve been reading this book that Gio Valiante wrote called Golf Flow, and I’ve been trying a few things from it that are clearly working. I didn’t even realise what score I was shooting!”
The big man has been in form recently and a fortnight ago took home a share of 23rd at the Investec Royal Swazi Open. This season he has made four out of fives cuts, his game is on the rise, and an opening 66 this week signals danger for his contenders.
“Out of my last nine rounds I’ve had eight in the sixties, so my game has been heading upwards. The biggest factor is that I’ve had a hot putter, and that is really how you score well,” he said.
Chasing the lead was 2010 Zambia Open winner Da Silva. The Brazilian carded 67 on Thursday and, with 10 Sunshine Tour victories under his belt, knows how to convert good starts into victory.
“I had a good start of the year and I’ve been very confident about my game. My putting has been letting me down, but these greens look similar to what we play in Asia, so it should be a good tournament for me,” he said.
He was joined by rookie Desne van den Bergh, who was excited for his first time in the mix, and added: "I am pretty pleased with my round, and I plan to enjoy my time in contention and play my own game. We’ll have to see what happens!"
Leading the Zambian front was Patrick Mwendapole, who carded one-under-par 72 to join a share of 23rd. The Chilanga Golf Club professional was confident and, like every Zambian, wanted to succeed this week.
“It’s always a pleasure to play on home soil, and we all come to this tournament to win. I am not surprised to be shooting one-under, and I think it could even get better,” he hinted. “I am trying my level best to take a top-five finish, so we’ll have to wait and see what the week brings.”
Local favourite Madalitso Muthiya fought his way back from one-over-par at the halfway mark, eventually making birdie at the 18th to reach level-par for the first round. The 30-year-old from Lusaka joins a share of 48th alongside defending champion Justin Harding.