6th March 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Van der Merwe’s putter comes good at State Mines
Pretoria’s PJ van der Merwe posted an untarnished eight-under-par 64 opening round of the Qualifying School Stage One at State Mines Country Club to take the lead on Tuesday.
After opening his round with a par, and despite admitting to struggling with the putter in the last few days, Van der Merwe made a birdie on the second and followed that up with an eagle on the par-five third to make his intentions clear. Three pars later, he made another birdie on the seventh and two more pars to go out in 32. He did not relent on the homeward stretch as he shot another bogey-free 32.
“I started very well in the morning, going four-under in the first nine,” said Van der Merwe after his round, “I putted well there. I have been struggling with the putter leading up to this tournament but three days ago I just found something in my putting and it just went well today.”
A stroke behind him on seven-under came Krugersdorp’s Clinton Grobler. He also produced a flawless round in hot conditions in Brakpan, making four birdies on the front and three on the back nine.
“It wasn’t too bad a start,” said Grobler, “and my putting was on today. I hit the fairways, greens and you didn’t have to hit a lot of drivers on the course because it’s quite short. But the greens today were definitely a little quicker than yesterday so it made me feel a little comfortable to get the ball closer to the hole. I just had to make a couple of putts and the confidence was there.”
He, too, admitted to having struggles of his own, but his were a little different to those of Van der Merwe’s. “I have been struggling with the first round for a few months now,” said Grobler, “but, I am happy it worked today and hopefully it will carry on like this for the rest of the week.”
France’s Louis Bilbault, Erhard Lambrechts and Richard Joubert all shared three-under 69 in round one.
Over at Killarney Golf Club, it was Canadian Steven Lecuyer who stole the show, carding a solid four-under 66 to take the first spot on the leaderboard. He opened his round with an eagle two to set the tone, made birdie on five and followed that up with a par that preceded another birdie but dropped a shot on the ninth to spoil a perfect front nine.
A par on the 10th steadied him nicely after the bogey on nine and back-to-back birdies followed on the 11th and the 12th holes before another bogey spoiled things on the 13th. He recovered swiftly with a birdie but three holes and three pars later, he dropped again to restrict his score to a respectable 66.
“I hit a lot of good shots today,” he said, “and I holed out from the fairway on one, so that was a bonus. I made some good up-and-downs which kept my round going. Besides the bogey on the last, the round was pretty solid.”
Sharing second spot were Arno Pretorius and John McClean of Northern Ireland who both carded 67s while amateur Andrew Morris and Paul Boshoff followed closely on two-under-par 68.