Rhys West made the most of what is traditionally called ‘moving day’ on Saturday and blasted clear of the R3.2-million Mopani/Redpath Zambia Open field with a seven-under-par 65 to lead by one stroke going into the final round.
His eagle, six birdies and just a single bogey saw him reach 10-under-par through 54 holes, giving him the edge over the halfway leader, Morne Buys, who recovered from a triple bogey on the third, and then four more bogeys in his round, to card a one-over 73.
West was quick to dispel any notion that he had figured the course out after his 65. “I just managed to eliminate the mistakes I have been making over the past few days,” he said.
And he wasn’t even fazed by the bogey he made. “I hit a good shot there on 13,” he said, “and the wind just died. It was in between clubs, so I just missed it a bit long and had a tough up and down.”
But he was pleased with the eagle on 17: “That was nice, I hit a really good four-iron in there to about 15 feet and managed to make the putt.”
Despite all the shots he picked up, he was still scratching his head about trying to figure out the Nkana Golf Clubs greens. “I don’t think I’m ever confident over a putt,” he said. “Here, it’s tough to get the pace. It’s tough to actually commit to hitting it that hard, but I managed to sink them today, so let’s hope that it carries on.”
The next-best round on the day came from Sunshine Tour Qualifying School graduate Etienne Bond, who carded a five-under-par 67 to move into a share of ninth position, just three shots off the lead.
And behind West and Buys, England’s Ross McGowan carded a one-under 71 to be eight-under for the tournament. Then Erik van Rooyen and Colin Nel were on seven-under, Christiaan Basson and first-round leader Theunis Spangenberg were on six-under, and Danie van Tonder was on five-under.
West is only too aware of the task that awaits him if he is to pull off his maiden Sunshine Tour victory. “There is still a full day to go,” he said. “I’ll just stick to the same game plan, and if it goes like today, then great. The more times you put yourself in position to win, I wouldn’t say you get used to it, but you know how to deal with yourself.
“So we’ll see how tomorrow goes, but I’m hitting the ball quite nicely, so I’m looking forward to it.”