His last two rounds at Lusaka Golf Club have seen him go 15 under par, and it was no surprise to see Lyle Rowe in the lead on Thursday at the end of the first round of the R1.5-million Zambia Sugar Open.
He carded a seven-under-par 66 to lead a group of three players – Daniel Greene, Haydn Porteous and Rhys Enoch from Wales – by one stroke, and, in the process, extend a run of low scores from his closing 65 with which he closed last year’s tournament on his way to a four-stroke victory.
“It’s nice to get a good round away, especially in the first round,” he said. “The course is playing beautifully. If you hit good shots, you get rewarded for them. The greens are holding and it’s probably the best the locals have ever got the greens – so there are scores out there.”
He started his round on the 10th, and immediately made two consecutive birdies, before a double-bogey at the 13th – his fourth – threatened to derail him. “It was a silly error with that double-bogey on the par-five,” he said. “I was trying to hit a lay-up, and I got a bit unlucky and the ball caught a branch and kicked over onto the other side of the fairway. I tried to hook a nine-iron from there, and it didn’t hook, and I hit a very bad mental-error chip shot which cost me the double.”
From then on, however, it was all plain sailing as he reeled off seven more birdies to get himself in the clubhouse in a good position after the first day of his title defence.
His playing partners were Danie van Tonder and Porteous, and Van Tonder finished his round in three-under-par to round out a group which was collectively 16 under par.
“It was good playing with Haydn and Danie today,” said Rowe. “We kind of kept each other going with birdies just about every other hole. So we all knew that the score was up for grabs, and we had to keep pushing for birdies.”
Porteous finished in a share of fifth in last year’s tournament, and he was pleased with his efforts in the first round this year. He wasn’t ready to think about winning his second professional title – after his victory in the Barclays Kenya Open last month – just yet. “You learn a lot about yourself after a win,” he said, “but you can’t get complacent about it and you’ve still got to put 100 percent into everything.
“And I’m not going to say winning on the Sunshine Tour is easy, so I’ve just got to carry on playing.”
If he carries on playing as he did in the opening round, during which he made an eagle and four birdies, then there could be an interesting battle ahead between him and Rowe – although Greene, Enoch, and the six players on five-under are all handily placed too.