Jake Redman made the most of the inspiration all around him as he carded seven-under-par 65 to lead the first round of the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Simola on Wednesday.
Playing a Jack Nicklaus golf course cut into the hills and overlooking the majestic Knysna Lagoon and famous Knysna Heads drew the correct response from the Sunshine Tour professionals.
Redman led by two strokes over Neil Schietekat and Alex Haindl, with Jacques Blaauw a further shot back on four-under-par 68.
It was the opening round of the 10th year of the Vodacom Origins of Golf series, one which gives Sunshine Tour professionals a chance to compete for R3.6-million in prize money over six tournaments through the South African winter.
“I love coming back here, and this year the course is in really good condition,” Redman said after a round featuring only one bogey.
“I really like the layout. It suits my eye. And the condition is always good which makes it easier because when you hit good shots you get rewarded, and the same with putts. It’s nice to get off to a good start like this. I just need to stick to what I want to do.”
Behind him, two players desperately in need of some inspiration were also rewarded. Schietekat and Haindl finally felt the weight of months of grinding ease up just a little with their respective 67s.
“I’ve put a couple of good rounds together the last few weeks, and that shows me that I’m starting to play a bit better,” said Schietekat.
“I’ve been off the map for a year or so, but I just want to put that behind me. If I can just put a whole tournament together, that will be great. But it’s baby steps. I just want to get one round going, then two rounds and so on.”
Haindl was feeling equally optimistic after a morning round in the cold and breezy conditions.
“I started the year off badly and was working on the swing but was down in confidence. It’s building up though and I think we’re going in the right direction. I’ve been making stupid mental errors on the course and I didn’t do that today.”
The theme of golfing redemption was also evident in the bogey-free 68 from Blaauw. “I definitely feel like something is looming and I’m on the brink of a good run,” he said.
But Schietekat best summed up the mood with his analysis of why this course suits him. “A Jack Nicklaus course has usually got a lot of bunkers out there. They give me something to aim at and work the ball off.”
Clearly he’s not the only one aiming at something special this week.
(By Michael Vlismas and Mike Green)