Former South African amateur stroke play champion Dean OÂRiley took the single step needed to make his professional debut as he qualified on Tuesday for the Â1-million Africa Open to be played at East London Golf Club from 6-9 January.
He finished in a share of seventh behind winner Andre Bossert of Switzerland in the Africa Open pre-qualifier played at the Fish River Sun, carding a one-under-par 71 with three birdies and two bogeys.
Bossert headed the field with his five-under 67, leading another new professional JJ Senekal into the main draw after Senekal signed for a three-under 69.
Vaughn Groenewald and David Hewan joined Senekal on 69, and Andrew Georgiou and Michael du Toit were on two-under 70, and OÂRiley had to bite his nails through a playoff with four other players to determine who would fill the final four spots.
Tyrone Ryan was the unlucky loser, as Ryan Tipping, Ben Mannix and Adrian Ford joined O’Riley.
Since he claimed his Sunshine Tour card in December, OÂRiley has been champing at the bit to get his season going. And he didnÂt think he would have to play his way into his pro debut.
ÂI was sort of hoping I would get a sponsorÂs invitation after my performance at Durban Country Club,Â he admitted Â he won the Freddie Tait Cup for the leading amateur at the South African Open Championship.
ÂBut I always say you have to take what life dishes out. If you get lemons, make lemonade. I got a taste of the action at the South African Open, but I was still playing as an amateur.
ÂThis time itÂs the real deal. Now we get serious. Now we get ready to rumble,Â said the 21-year-old from Benoni.
OÂRiley says he is eager to sample the experience of the Sunshine Tour and he has high hopes of kicking off his 2011 season with a good result.
ÂI have some really good memories of the 2010 SA Amateur Match Play at East London,Â he explained. ÂI made it to the semi-final and got knocked out by Laurie Canter, who went on to win the Match Play. I really like the course; it suits my eye and I like the way it challenges you in the wind.
ÂIf I can get through my first qualifier, the next goal will be to make my first cut.Â