Ulrich van den Berg steadied the ship on Friday after two consecutive bogeys threatened to sink his round, and he carded a six-under-par 67 to take the halfway lead in the R1.2-million Zambia Sugar Open.
He had turned in five-under-par after starting his round on the 10th at the par-73 Lusaka Golf Club, and he eagled the second to move to a commanding nine-under-par around the tight layout with small fast greens – and it was made more difficult by the windy conditions. But then came his bogeys.
“The first, second, third, fourth, fifth tee shots aren’t easy,” said Van den Berg of the wind. “I hit a good tee shot on three and got a little bit unlucky and then hit a poor tee shot on four and those two bogeys did hurt my round. But in the end I did turn it around with a nice chip and putt on six and a birdie at eight.”
That gave him a one-stroke edge over first-round leader and winner of last month’s Mopani Copper Mines Zambia Open Wallie Coetsee, who shared the halfway second place with Jared Harvey and Jean Hugo.
Coetsee was unable to reproduce the fine play of his first round despite a resounding start with three birdies in his first five holes, but battled back each time he made bogeys – and there were four of them – to bring his round back to level-par.
Harvey had got it to nine-under by the time he reached the 13th, but bogeys on 15 and 17 hurt him as he went one-over on the section the professionals call ‘the scoring nine’.
“I was disappointed with how that back nine went,” said Harvey. “It has four par-fives and they’re all reachable, but all in all, I’m happy with my position in the tournament.”
Derick Petersen and Neil Schietekat also put themselves in the mix at six-under for the tournament, and they shared fifth place, with a group of four sharing seventh on five-under.
Four of the Zambian players made the cut which fell at four-over-par, led by Patrick Mwendapole on one-under after he followed his opening 72 with a level-par 73. Madalitso Muthiya was on level-par after his two-over second round, and Dayne Moore was on one-over following his 74.
The 19-year-old amateur Timothy Sondashi got himself to three-under for the tournament on his opening nine, but four bogeys on the way home saw him finish at one-under – inside the cut.
Ahead of them, Van den Berg, who came so close to winning the Telkom Business PGA Championship on the Sunshine Tour in April, is in a pretty determined space right now. “I came here with a mission,” he said, “and so far so good. I just need to keep going. The course requires a lot of patience and you really have to think your way around it.”
That sounds exactly like the kind of thing Van den Berg thrives on.