Shaun ties up Finals spot at St Francis

Shaun Smith savoured a return to links golf while qualifying for the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final on Monday, carding 69 at St. Francis Links to pick up the first of 10 spots on offer.


"I'm very pleased with my result today. To finish tied at the top on a course like this is fantastic," he said.


A graduate of the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation, Smith was prepared for some windy links golf in Port Elizabeth on Monday and made six birdies on his way to a three-under-par total.


"It sure is good to be back on a links course, it makes it feel like home. I live in Jeffreys Bay and I get to play at St. Francis quite a bit, so I guess you could say there is a bit of home-ground advantage!" he laughed.


He was joined at the top of the leaderboard by Erik van Rooyen, who also shot 69. No other competitor broke par on the tough par-72 setup.


Smith teed off at 08h00 and started scoring before the wind picked up. Birdies at the first, second and sixth earned the 21-year-old his first taste of three-under, but a drop at the eighth meant he turned at two below the card.


A further birdie at the 10th gave the former Springbok golfer extra cushioning and he cooled down as the wind began to blow. A final bogey at the par-three 14th and birdie at the par-five 16th earned Smith his three-under-par tally.


"As a rookie we're pre-qualifying all the time and with this game you never know when your week will come. A good result can affect everthing – your next tournament, your next season. This could be my week, but you just have to keep going, because I can fail 10 times, but if I succeed once it will make all of that worth it," he said.


Van Rooyen had a rockier start to the day after carding a bogey six at the third hole. He had to dig deep, but red numbers at the fifth and sixth set things right. A further drop at the ninth meant the 23-year-old turned level-par for the day.


There must have been something in the halfway house sandwiches, because van Rooyen dove into the back nine with birdies at the 10th, 11th and 13th to hit three-under for the first time.


A late drop at the 17th followed by a birdie at the 18th meant a 33-stroke second loop for van Rooyen, who shared top honours at the pre-qualifying tournament for the finale of the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series.


Daniel Hammond and Adrian Ford put in good showings at St. Francis and shared third place on level-par, while CJ du Plessis and Drikus Bruyns shared fifth on one-over.


Irvin Mazibuko and Musiwalo Nethunzwi both carded 74 to share seventh, while Maritz Wessels and Bennie van der Merwe completed the 10 places with their share of ninth on three-over-par.


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