Stuart Smith is one of the many Sunshine Tour professionals who have to compete in pre-qualifiers in the hopes of making it into limited-field events. Every event that he qualifies for is an opportunity, such as this week’s Vodacom Origins of Golf presented by Samsung Wild Coast.
The first round is make or break territory and the Botswana local took confidence from his opening 67 on Wednesday at Wild Coast Sun Country Club. By the time the morning field was complete he was comfortable in sole second in the clubhouse.
“Coming through qualifying is a long road, because we’ve still got to make the cut. It’s a big step from there, but you’ve got to take things as they come and move forward,” he said.
Top spot was held by Louis de Jager, who carded an impeccable 63 to seal a four-stroke lead over the morning field. The 27-year-old needed only 30 shots to finish his second loop.
“There are days when you play well and don’t score, but today I managed to pull it off. I’m in a good position and really enjoying this. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to having a go,” he said.
Smith had to compete on Tuesday as one of 46 players looking for one of the 15 qualifying places that were available. He carded 71 and made it into this week’s R600,000 event on the number.
The winds of the Wild Coast began to pick up when the 24-year-old teed off on Wednesday morning and they continued to build throughout the round. The gusting coastal breeze meant scoring was tough, despite the par-70 course playing at 5807 metres from the tips.
Smith decided to take advantage of his early start and played aggressive golf before the wind got too strong. He began the round with a birdie at the second and made further birdies at the third and fourth.
“On the front nine there was very little wind and I had to take advantage and make as many birdies as I could. With this wind it’s quite a struggle and anything under par is a good score in these conditions. I think I did a great job today,” he said.
On the back stretch it was a different story and the Serengeti Golf Estate member had to keep his game in check. After making birdie at the 12th he dropped shots at the 15th and 17th, but a birdie at the last meant a level-par back nine and 67 for the first round.
“You’ve got to keep the ball in play with this wind. Find the fairway, find the green and take par. The occasional birdie might drop, but you should play it conservatively. It can change in one hole, so you’ve got to try to steady yourself and manage your game,” he said.