Colin Nel hails from Pietermaritzburg, which is 238 kilometres away from Wild Coast Sun Country Club, but for the 30-year-old the course felt like home on Wednesday after he shot 65 to lead early in the first round of the Wild Waves Golf Challenge.
“I’m a Maritzburg boy, so this is my stomping ground. I’ve played a lot here and I’m comfortable around the course – it certainly feels like home,” he said.
The course plays at 5807 metres from the tips and finds its defence in the coastal winds, which gusted up to 30 kilometres per hour during the first round. The wide fairways and large greens tease players into taking on the wind and that’s when they pay the price.
Nel was capable of navigating through the blustery conditions and rose to the top of the leaderboard quickly. By the fourth hole he had three birdies on his card and led the day. His fourth birdie of the day came at the eighth, but it was nullified when he made bogey at the ninth.
“I got off to a good start and kept it going from there. It makes a huge difference when you sink a few of those longer putts: the fairways seem a bit wider, the momentum rolls and you can really get into the round,” he said.
The back stretch is the tougher nine at the Wild Coast, but Nel managed it well. He birdied the 12th for a return to four-under and then had some luck at the 16th.
“As we came to the turn the wind really started picking up and we knew the back nine would be tough with the wind blowing, so I just tried to hang on. I got lucky on the 16th, because it pitched in the hazard and bounced out. That was a nice birdie to walk away with!”
The Maritzburg Golf Club member posted five-under in the clubhouse and led the morning field by two strokes. A five-man tie for second place consisted of Steven Ferreira, Tyrone Mordt, Drikus Bruyns, Heinrich Bruiners and Theunis Spangenberg.