Sunshine Tour rookie Rhys West (@RhysWest88) has had to qualify for most of the tournaments he’s played in this year which makes his opening five-under-par 67 on Wednesday in the R600,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf presented by Samsung at Arabella Golf Club even more impressive.
“Having to qualify teaches you to go low,” he said. “In my amateur career, and when I started as a pro, I tried to protect myself against par, and in qualifiers you’ve got to go under par or you’re not going to be playing – so I’d say it’s taught me to go low.”
His 67 was good enough to see him finish in a four-way share of the lead with Trevor Fisher Jnr, Jacques Blaauw and PH McIntyre, a shot clear of three players – Jean Hugo, Chris Swanepoel who won at Arabella in 2011 when the Sunshine Tour last played a tournament there, and Adilson Da Silva – on four-under-par 68.
West topped the qualifier for this tournament with a six-under-par 66, and while he took one stroke more in the opening round, what was impressive was that this one was bogey-free.
“The course is playing soft,” he said, “so the ball just stays where it lands. That makes the fairways and the landing areas a lot easier to hit. And I think driving’s very important around here, so if you can just get it in the fairway, it’s a lot easier to score.”
That he was the only player to go bogey-free was not insignificant: Fisher came close with just one in his opening nine, and then tore through the homeward in five-under 31, including a little stretch of birdie-eagle-birdie from 12 to 14.
But Jacques Blaauw made two bogeys in between his seven birdies, and McIntyre made bogey on the fifth before making his first birdie on nine. He proceeded to make five more on the back nine as he joined the lead.
For West, the difficulty of having to routinely qualify has been useful. “In my practice round, I thought it was a really tough golf course,” he said. “But then I drove it better in the qualifying round, and I saw that there are a lot of scoring holes out there if you get it off the tee box well.”
The secret to scoring well anywhere is to eliminate the bogeys, and with the greens really soft, putting was not easy when he went round in the afternoon. “I made one or two really good up-and-downs when I thought I was going to be making drop and that kept my momentum going,” he said.