Ruan carries Q-School success to Africa Open

Rookie Ruan de Smidt won the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School last year and carried that success to the Africa Open, moving to seven-under after 36 holes at East London Golf Club.

On Friday he carded two-under-par 70 to finish a stroke clear of fellow rookie Danie van Tonder, with both players comfortably making the cut as the €1-million tournament’s field narrowed to 65 and ties.

“This experience has been great,” said De Smidt. “To come here and start the season well has been quite special, and playing alongside golfers of this level encourages me to play well,” he added.

De Smidt, who played his first two rounds with countryman Graham van der Merwe and England’s Matthew Baldwin, carded four-under-par 69 over the first 18.

On Friday he had a shaky start, following a birdie at the third with a bogey at the fourth. But the 22-year-old steadied things with birdies at the sixth and seventh and turned at two-under.

A further bogey at the 10th would not unsettle the Krugersdorp professional, who went on to birdie the 1th and 15th, taking his tournament score to seven-under.

Van Tonder finished one stroke shy of De Smidt at Qualifying School and experienced a similar situation on Friday when his 36-hole score amounted to six-under-par, a shot shy of De Smidt’s.

During the first round van Tonder was hampered by drops at the sixth and eighth, but made his way around the back stretch in 33 to salvage the round and close the day at three-under.

Friday looked to be electric for the 20-year-old when he leapt to two-under through three, but Van Tonder failed maintain the pace and would make par until the turn.

At the 10th he bogeyed, but kept composed and parred his way through the next four holes. Pressure clearly suited the youngster and he played his way into the weekend by making birdies the 15th and 17th.

In 2011 rookie Allan Versfeld set up his season with a seventh-place finish at the Joburg Open, which earned him exemption and ultimately led to him winning the Rookie of the Year Race.

Both De Smidt and Van Tonder have every opportunity to do the same, and this weekend could prove to be the beginning of a great season for the top Q-School graduates.

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