Sometimes the best form of defence is attack, and JC Ritchie used the advice in that adage admirably on Wednesday as he finished the first round of the R600,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf presented by Samsung tournament at St Francis Links in four-under-par 68.
The 20-year-old from Pretoria had to qualify to play in the 72-man tournament, and he did that with a round of two-over-par 74 the day before the main event teed off. And when he reached the turn in one-over-par 37 after a double-bogey six on the 416-metre ninth, he had every right to feel a little despondent.
Instead, he reeled off an astonishing sequence of birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie to get himself to five-under-par. And, although he dropped a shot at the 17th, he still managed to put himself in the clubhouse in a share of third behind the course record of seven-under-par 65 set by Keith Horne.
“I just started making putts,” said Ritchie of the difference between his qualifying round and the first round. “I was hitting the ball just as well yesterday.”
It took some good approach shots, too, to get him that great run of scoring. “I birdied 10. My second shot was a very nice shot,” he said. “On 11, I hit a very good second shot as well, the same as I did on 12, and I made a nice putt there. On 13, I took a chance off the tee to go for the green with my second, and made eagle there. And I hit another good shot on the par-three 14th and made a nice long putt there.”
Ritchie finished third at the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School back in January, and his best result on the Sunshine Tour this year has been his share of 21st in the Mopani Copper Mines Zambia Open in May, and he finds himself in 88th spot on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.
A good performance at St Francis will go a long way to securing his playing privileges for the 2015 season.