Neil shares halfway lead at Irene

Neil Cheetham carded an opening 69 at Irene Country Club on Monday to secure a share of the lead halfway through the fifth tournament on the Big Easy Tour schedule.


“The scoring reflected the setup and conditions well. There were tricky pins and firm greens, so I was pleased to be up there. I played very solid today, but had a few three-putts. Without those three-putts I can’t really fault my round of golf,” he said.


The Wanderers Golf Club representative got going on his homeward nine and birdied the 18th to finish at three-under-par for the day, securing his share of the lead alongside Jacquin Hess and Peter Wilson.


Cheetham had a shaky start to the day and was two-over after five holes, but a birdie at the sixth changed his momentum. After making three pars to turn at one-over for the day he began to swing more freely, which led to birdies at the 10th and 11th.


“I played well today and my game felt good, so it was a case of staying patient and waiting for the chances to come. On the back nine I had chances on almost every hole, and some of those are going to go in,” he said.


He shrugged off a bogey at the 12th and went on to birdie the 14th, 15th and 18th for a 32-stroke back nine and a tie for the lead.


“I’m on the comeback trail at the moment and throughout this season I’ve been playing good golf, but not scoring that well. I’ve successfully qualified for four Sunshine Tour events this year and then made the cut in all of them. I also lost in a playoff at Big Easy Wingate in May. I’m happy with form and I’m really enjoying my golf again,” he said.


Hess ranks 51st on the Big Easy Order of Merit and needs a good result this week in order to secure a place at the Tour Championship in September. He looked to be in the right frame of mind to succeed after he closed out the first round with three birdies in his final four holes.


Wilson had the cleanest scorecard of the leading three, despite making bogeys at the 14th and 16th. He included a birdie at the ninth to his front nine of 33 and kept himself in contention for the final round on Tuesday.


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