Bryce Easton had no trouble at the turn, which holds the toughest holes at Copperleaf Golf and Country Estate, and shot 68 on Wednesday to lead the first round of the Sunshine Big Easy Tour Championship presented by Stonehage.
Easton carded six birdies, three of which came between the eighth and 11th, and closed the day with a one-stroke lead over Johan Etsebeth in the R250,000 event.
The 24-year-old relished leading the Tour Championship. ÂI enjoy having a bit of pressure and people watching, it helps me concentrate,Â Easton said.
He also took advantage of the experience of finishing second in the Northern Cape Classic on the Sunshine Tour two weeks ago.
He holds down fourth spot in the Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year race, yet Easton showed maturity in windy conditions, making all but one fairway. ÂItÂs crucial to find fairways, and I drove it well all day, which set me up nicely,Â said Easton.
Easton began the day with a birdie on the par-three third, but a three-putt on the par-five fourth set him back to level-par. He two-putted on the eighth and made the turn at one-under.
He dropped a gear ahead of the back stretch. ÂI gave myself a few good chances and made a couple of putts,Â Easton said of his trio of birdies, which he carded on the 10th, 11th and 13th.
A solitary back-nine drop came on the 12th, but a final birdie on the par-five 15th secured the lead for Easton at four-under-par.
EastonÂs win at the Crown Mines event in March contributed greatly to his qualification for the Tour Championship, with invitations going to the top 30 on the Order of Merit.
One finish outside the money saw Easton make the Tour Championship in 11th place in the money standings, and a win will easily secure him the Tour Trophy.
One stroke back, Etsebeth attributed his three-under-par round to eight months of work with his coach. ÂI found fairways, my chipping was on form, and the broomstick putter, which I only started using a month and a half ago, really paid off today,Â he said.
Easton stayed solid through CopperleafÂs toughest holes and showed that he enjoys pressure, which will be abundant in the next two rounds of the Tour Championship.