Charl Coetzee was just one of the Sunshine Tour professionals who was put through the wringer that is called ÂThe StretchÂ at the Legend Golf & Safari Resort on Wednesday.
Playing in the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final, the players took on a course which rejoices in the reputation of being the longest par-72 layout in the world Â but it has been set up at a ÂmereÂ 6,744 metres for the tournament.
And the first five holes look like this: One is a 526-metre par five; two is a par four at 418 metres; three is 412 metres and par four; four is a 182-metre par three; and the kicker at five is a lengthy 448 metres and par four.
Coetzee, who after shoulder surgery in March to repair a damaged anterior cruciate joint is playing pain free for the first time in two years, needed a fully functioning shoulder through those holes.
ÂTheyÂre definitely the toughest holes on this course. The fifth was ridiculous. I hit driver and four-iron really well and barely got to the green before making par.Â
Neil Cheetham shook his head in relief at having survived what he called Âa beast of a courseÂ and signing for a bogey-free five-under-par 67 to lead.
Cheetham finished one stroke clear of Desvonde Botes and Ockie Strydom, and with Coetzee, Steven Ferreira, Louis de Jager, Albert Pistorius, Irvin Mazibuko and Dean OÂRiley all on three-under.
ÂItÂs a beast of a course. All credit to the tour officials for setting it up as playable, because off the back tees it would be a monster,Â said Cheetham.
The first five holes Â including those three ridiculously long par fours Â are clearly the most difficult. And the 448-metre par-four fifth stands like a grumpy buffalo in that pack.
It was easily the most difficult hole in the first round. It yielded only five birdies in the field of 72. And it took from them 16 bogeys and six double bogeys.
ÂI hit driver, three-iron there and still came up short,Â said Cheetham, who made par on the hole.
ÂThe intimidation factor on those long par fours is there because you have to really hit your tee shot well, otherwise youÂre taking off a head cover for your second.Â
Behind him, Botes also hit driver and then three-iron for his second on what he described as Âa very, very long fifth holeÂ. And Strydom said all he tried to do through that stretch was Âkeep my cool and hold my swing together. IÂm pleased how I came through thereÂ.
At three under the verdict on the fifth was the same.
Pistorius hit two-iron for his second on the fifth to make par there. ÂBut theyÂre all monsters those holes,Â he said.
Ferreira hit a rescue into five for his par, and De Jager a four-iron to make par. ÂI smoked it Â 210 metres,Â said De Jager. ÂItÂs a brutal stretch of holes. You want to get those done and can take a breather after that.Â
OÂRiley was one of the few to make a birdie there. The Johannesburg golfer was looking good at five under through 11 holes, having played the back nine first. But then he bogeyed holes three and four, birdied the fifth, and bogeyed the sixth.
The first five certainly got the better of Mark Murless, who came through that stretch in five over par as he went out in 43 for an 81.
By Michael Vlismas