Michael Palmer is determined to take whatever he learned from his blowout in the final round of another qualifying school and use it to his advantage at this year’s Sunshine Tour Qualifying School which got underway on Tuesday.
Palmer had a three-way share of the lead after firing a seven-under-par 65 at Schoeman Park Golf Club – the 272 hopefuls will play two rounds at each of Schoeman Park and Bloemfontein Golf Club ahead of a cut to the top 60 players and ties.
“I have my card for the Sunshine Tour from my fourth place finish on the Big Easy Tour,” said Palmer, “so I’m playing the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School to get a better category to get into some of the co-sanctioned events this summer.”
He started the European Tour Qualifying School with a 63, but he was unable to sustain the pace over that six-round marathon as he slipped outside the top 30 who got their cards with a final round of 78.
“Things didn’t go too well there,” he said, “but I got status on the Challenge Tour and I intend playing as many of those tournaments as I can. Before the first event on that tour, which is in Kenya in April, I intend playing as many Sunshine Tour events as I can in an attempt to seal my status here too.”
He got off to the perfect start at Schoeman Park: He cruised round the front nine in four-under-par 32, with birdies on three, five, six and nine, and then he picked up three more on 11, 15 and 17 to share the top of the leaderboard with Terence Boardman and Portugal’s Antonio Rosado.
Boardman’s round was similarly bogey-free at Bloemfontein Golf Club, while, back at Schoeman Park, Rosado interspersed his six birdies with two eagles and three bogeys.
Behind that trio was another trio on five-under-par 67: Botswana’s Stuart Smith overcame a bogey on Bloemfontein’s 17th with an eagle on 18, local boy Burger Heckroodt took advantage of being on his home Schoeman Park, and England’s Johnny Evans was bogey free on Bloemfontein.
For Palmer, the week is all about taking advantage of his experience. “I went to Oklahoma City University for four years,” he said. “And then I worked for the next couple of years and decided I needed to start playing golf again, and I came home. I’m not sure if the younger guys on the tour don’t have maturity, but I know that two years of working have given me a huge push to succeed.”
At this early stage, with three round to go ahead of the cut, there is plenty of work to be done by all the hopefuls: Eight players got it to four-under after the first round, and 11 more to three-under. But getting inside the top 60 is the first aim.