Stuart Smith fired his lowest round on the Sunshine Tour on Thursday when he carded a bogey-free 10-under-par 62 in the third round of the 2016 Qualifying School being played at Bloemfontein Golf Club and Schoeman Park Golf Club.
Playing on Schoeman Park, Smith opened with two consecutive birdies, made three more by the time he reached the seventh, and then turned in 29 thanks to an eagle on nine. Three more birdies on his way home saw him go one better than the 63 he carded in the second round of the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Vaal de Grace on September 9.
“It feel pretty much like I was daydreaming out there,” he said. “Today I just kept it in play off the tee and then hit every green. I only missed one green today. That helps, but also I hit it pretty close. So the ball-striking was there today, and after a couple of early putts rolled in, I kind of visualised my putts to be a little bit easier. It felt like I could make every putt. And then I just decided to see what happened on the back nine.”
His form clearly fired up his playing partners too: Zimbabwe’s Greg Bentley signed for a five-under 67 with an eagle, six birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey, while amateur Louis Taylor stormed home in 66 with two eagles, four birdies and two bogeys.
Smith’s blitz saw him finish the day two shots ahead of Bryandrew Roelofsz, who also played at Schoeman Park, and his six-under 66 had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys in it.
“It just happened and without the wind this morning, it helped a lot,” said Smith. “Coming off the 72 yesterday I thought it wasn’t that great a round, but maybe it was actually not that bad considering the conditions. So to come out this morning before the wind picked up and get a low round will settle the nerves a little bit.”
He finished in 130th spot on the 2015 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, so that brought him to Qualifying School in an attempt to regain his playing privileges. And that experience has helped him to keep calm during the early stages of what is a 90-hole marathon.
“You can’t force things. You’ve just got to be patient out there and wait. If you’re going along at one-under, level, two-under, I’m sure that on one of the five days you’re going to get a good round,” he said.
“I was just trying to be as consistent as possible – keep it as simple as possible – and just hit the fairways and hit the greens. I’ve been here more than once, so you get familiar with the golf course. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes and go from there. And when the putts roll in, it’s your day,” he added.
Also taking advantage of the good scoring conditions at Schoeman Park was Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who carded a seven-under-par 65 to go eight-under for the tournament, seven shots off Smith’s lead just one round ahead of the 72-hole cut to the top 60 players and ties.
In such a long and gruelling tournament, it’s about playing the waiting game and striking when you get the opportunity. Like Bezuidenhout, Smith understood that during the third round. “It’s up to you how patient you’re willing to be,” said Smith. “Today just seemed to be that day.”