Oliver Bekker could have had sole possession of the first round lead on Tuesday of the Wild Waves Golf Challenge had his birdie putt on the 18th not circled the hole without dropping.
Instead, he finds himself in a three-way share of the lead at six-under-par 64 with Ruan de Smidt and Christiaan Basson in the R600,000 54-hole Sunshine Tour tournament over the 5,807-metre par-70 Wild Coast Sun Country Club course.
“I was very surprised when it didn’t go in,” said Bekker. “When it was about a foot-and-a-half, I thought it had to go into the hole. It’s a little disappointing, but it wasn’t an easy putt with a bit of break on it.
“I felt a little bit hard done by on the last three holes,” he added. He three-putted for par on 16 having reached the green on the 492-metre par-five in two, he hit the flag stick on 17, and then came the putt on 18. “But if you’d offered me 64 at the beginning of the day, I would have taken the day off,” he laughed.
Having reached the 12th in six-under, Bekker had every reason to think he might have gone lower. He had dropped a shot on the third, but had made seven birdies to more than compensate for that error. But he made six consecutive pars to finish and was unable to capitalise fully on the fast start.
De Smidt started on the 10th and reeled off four consecutive birdies from 12 to 15 before he dropped a shot on 16. He hit back with a birdie on 17 and then made two more on the front nine for his 64. “I went back to my old putter, and the putts have started dropping,” he said.
Playing with De Smidt, Basson’s start was slow by way of contrast: He made his first birdie on his sixth hole, but then he made it count with five more birdies and not a single dropped shot in a near-flawless round. “Nn my back nine, things were really going my way,” he said. “I made one or two nice putts. I wasn’t far off in the opening nine – I was just missing them. Sometimes they drop and sometimes they just go over the edges.”
The three leaders had a one-stroke edge over a quartet consisting of Jeff Inglis, Daniel Greene, Titch Moore and Desvonde Botes, with a 10-man group on four-under-par 66, including two players who have won twice on the Sunshine Tour this year already – Adilson Da Silva and Jacques Blaauw.
Bekker, who won January’s Telkom PGA Pro-Am, and had a top-10 finish in the Telkom PGA Championship, is looking to add his name to that list of multiple winners after a campaign in Europe which was quite demanding.
“You come home and you are in your comfort zone,” said Bekker. “When you’re at a golf course that you don’t particularly like, and you hit one or two bad shots, get one or two bad breaks, and your mind’s off the golf.
“I finished second in the Nashua Masters here two years ago, and I was third in this tournament last year. At the beginning of the week, I felt my game was coming round – so I definitely think I’m in with a shot, especially after today’s round,” he added.