Musiwalo Nethunzwi blazed around Observatory Golf Club in 66 blows on Tuesday to share the halfway lead at the R100,000 Sunshine Big Easy Tour tournament presented by Stonehage.
ÂItÂs been a perfect experience. I played well, I was good off the tee and I putted great, so everything really went my way,Â he said.
The final round on Wednesday will coincide with NethunzwiÂs 24th birthday, and heÂs keen to tee it up in the final three-ball. HeÂll play alongside fellow leaders Bennie van der Merwe and ZimbabweÂs Micky Hough.
ÂThis score has been coming for a while,Â said Nethunzwi. ÂIÂve been working hard and struggling a bit on the main tour. A round like today is especially good for my confidence, and IÂm ready for tomorrow.Â
In 2012 he received two invitations to Big Easy tournaments as part of an initiative between the Sunshine Tour and the South African Golf Development Board. In spite of his amateur status he shone during those two tournaments and recorded a third-place finish at Big Easy Houghton and a sixth-place finish at Big Easy Gary Player. Now the Modderfontein Golf Club professional is facing his first chance at career earnings.
ÂWhen I was an amateur it was different, and now that IÂm playing for the real thing there is more pressure, but more reward!Â he said.
TuesdayÂs round was a rollercoaster for the young gun, who started with an eagle at the par-five second, but followed it with a double-bogey at the par-four third.
A bogey at the fourth looked ominous, but Nethunzwi dug deep and birdied the fifth and ninth to turn one below the card. From there he was ready to go low.
A last drop at the 11th did little to upset the youngster, who had shifted the momentum with his recovery on the front nine. He eagled the 14th and made three birdies over his final four holes to finish on six-under-par.
Morning starter Micky Hough set the pace early on in the day with his 66, carrying good form from the Zimbabwe Open, where he made his second Sunshine Tour cheque of the season.
Fellow leader Bennie van der Merwe is a seasoned campaigner on the Sunshine Tour and was pleased to shoot 66. He praised the Big Easy Tour for boosting the confidence of players who often fly below the radar.
ÂItÂs always nice to shoot 66 and this is a tricky track, because you have to shoot it straight. I love this course, and IÂm glad to post such a good score here.
ÂItÂs nice to come out and play these events. It almost feels like a Sunshine Tour event, because the Big Easy fields this year are full of Sunshine Tour golfers and the standard is really high,Â he said.
Four players loomed just one stroke back from the leaders, with 2011Âs Big Easy Kempton Park winner Dean OÂRiley leading the chase. He was joined by Rocky Tlhabanyane, Coenie Bester and Pieter Moolman.
Eight players shared eighth on four-under, while a further 10 players reached the clubhouse with three-under-par 69s.