Tuesday was a tough day for the 56 pre-qualifiers hunting a spot at the Telkom PGA Championship, yet Pieter Moolman managed his way round in 70 blows to secure one of 10 places on offer.
ÂIÂve realized that, for me, all of these big events are about experience. To get an opportunity to play in such an old tournament, with so much history, makes me feel very satisfied,Â he said.
The 22-year-old was one of six players to finish below par, with KenyaÂ Dismas Indiza shooting a leading 69 at the Rocklands course at Country Club Johannesburg.
The 18-hole competition formed the final pre-cursor to the Telkom PGA Championship, a R3,75-million, 156-man tournament that dates back to 1965. Former champions at this prestigious event include Gary Player, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen and George Coetzee.
ÂIt also feels great to play in a tournament where players like Louis Oosthuizen have been successful,Â said Moolman. ÂHe (Oosthuizen) is on top of the world now, and itÂs definitely special to be following in the path of a player like that.Â
On Tuesday the youngster earned himself a spot at the event by penciling in four birdies during the day. The Benoni localÂs next task is to tackle the Woodmead course of Country Club Johannesburg from Thursday, when the Telkom PGA Championship begins.
ÂMy game feels good,Â he said. ÂThere were few little mistakes today, but I kept giving myself scoring opportunities and the putter is pretty hot. IÂm happy with my game and excited for the week ahead, but today was just the start.Â
Indiza was elated with his 69, which would have been a shot better were it not for a drop at the last. The Nairobi resident must now turn his focus to the main event, which includes a field containing five European Tour and 28 Sunshine Tour champions.
Joining Moolman in a share of second were Mikhail Tewary and ZimbabweÂs Micky Hough, both of whom reached the two-under-par mark around the 7009-metre parklands layout.
Thomas Lovett and Daniel Hammond shared fifth on one-under, while six players finished on level-par and entered a sudden-death playoff for the final four spots.
The successful four were Beyers Smith, Blanche Lamprecht, Tsietsi Chabangu and SwazilandÂs Arthur Horne.