He grew up playing golf in similar conditions to those he encountered on Thursday at Lusaka Golf Club in the first round of the Zambia Sugar Open, and Wallie Coetsee revelled in them on his way to a seven-under-par 66 and the early lead.
The 43-year-old who plays out of Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa’s Eastern Cape learnt the game in tropical Tzaneen in Limpopo province, and he was able to master the greens better than anyone else as he made seven birdies and didn’t drop a single shot as he led Jared Harvey by two shots as the players in the morning field completed their rounds.
“I love it here,” said Coetsee, who won the Mopani Copper Mines Zambia Open in Kitwe three weeks ago. “The greens and the conditions here are similar to Tzaneen. Putting on them is not about the stroke. You just have to get the speed right and then get it on line and roll the ball.”
One player who got something right on the greens was Charl Coetzee who carded a two-under-par 71 for his opening round, which included the first eagle of the tournament on the 516-metre par-five 18th, where his 40-foot putt for eagle netted him a set of tyres from one of the co-sponsors.
Behind the leader Coetsee and second-placed Harvey was a group of three players on four-under-par 69, consisting of Jean Hugo, PH McIntyre and Jake Redman, and then another three on three-under – Neil Schietekat, Haydn Porteous and Vaughn Groenewald.
The leading Zambian player was Patrick Mwendapole, who carded a one-under-par 72.
All the players talked about how difficult it was to score on the tough greens, but Coetsee was at home on them. “The greens are quite hard too, so there are a few holes where you have to pitch it short and let it roll on,” he said. “There are a lot of holes where you can’t go for the pin because you just know the ball is just going to release and roll away.”
It wasn’t looking promising for Coetsee ahead of the opening round, however. “Yesterday I played so badly in the pro-am, so it was nice to come here today and nail a few putts,” he said. “I was the last one to leave the putting green last night – I was putting there in the dark! I found something and I think it worked, because I only had 24 putts out there.”
There’s more to it than that, said Coetsee: “The big thing, I would say is just to keep it in the fairways. I played with Adilson Da Silva today. He’s number one in driving accuracy and I’m number two. But after today, I think I’m number one,” he laughed.