Toto Thimba strung together a bogey-free 65 at Royal Swazi Sun Country Club on Thursday, seizing the early lead at the Lombard Insurance Classic with his seven-under-par tally.
“It feels good, especially to open with a good round. Recently I’ve been struggling to get tournaments off to a good start, and today I managed to focus on my game and I’m very pleased with the result,” he said.
The Mamelodi local has tasted success in Swaziland before. Last year he led the qualifier for the Swazi Open and went on to finished tied sixth with a 43-point total under the tournament’s modified stableford scoring format. Were it a stroke play event he would have totalled 13-under-par for his four rounds.
On Thursday the 27-year-old continued to favour the 6140-metre layout, making seven birdies during the round to finish one stroke clear of Sunshine Tour veteran Warren Abery.
“It’s been a special day, because I started well and I knew I was going to have a great round early on in the day,” Thimba explained. “I’ve had some good experiences here and that makes me even more determined to do well this week.”
He’s been campaigning on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour for two seasons, keeping his game sharp at the 36-hole tournaments. During that time he has won two events and lifted the cheque at Centurion Country Club a fortnight ago.
With six top-10s on the Sunshine Tour and a handful of results from the development tour, Thimba has set his sights on a great 2013 season. Hard work and constant improvement have made him a real threat at places like Royal Swazi, where his confidence is high.
“Winning those Big Easy events really gets your confidence up, and it makes you feel like you can win anything. My goal is to win all of the major tournaments, and I’m keen to play well in the Alfred Dunhill and SA Open Championships this year,” he said.
Chasing the lead is seven-time Sunshine Tour champion Abery, who has been splitting his playing time between Europe and Southern Africa this season.
The jovial 39-year-old looked to be in trouble after he carded bogeys at the second and third, but turned it all around with an eagle at the par-five seventh and reached the turn at one-under.
He found his rhythm on the back nine and made more birdies than not to finish his second loop in 31 strokes, reaching the clubhouse in sole second on six-under-par.
Ruan de Smidt and Andrew Curlewis shared third a further stroke off the pace.