6th April 2019 | Sunshine Tour
Lost ball no problem as Ritchie storms to Lusaka lead
Losing a ball on the 10th hole on Saturday in the third round of the Zanako Masters at Lusaka Golf Club was not enough to stop JC Ritchie storming to a two-stroke lead with a superb seven-under-par 66.
His only bogey of the day came on the 10th, but he more than made up for that with six birdies and an eagle as he moved to 15-under for the tournament. He leads a trio of players – England duo Chris Cannon and Ross McGowan, and South Africa’s Jaco Ahlers – who shared second on 13-under at the 54-hole mark.
“I had an unlucky lost ball on 10, when the spotters didn’t see it, and made bogey there – I did lip out for par – but otherwise it was a terrific round,” said Ritchie. “I’m very pleased with it. I felt it was easy for me. Two weeks of hard work on the range started to pay off today. I hit my irons a lot better than yesterday. I managed to play the par-fives a lot better today as well. I managed to keep the ball in play all day.”
On Lusaka Golf Club’s five par-fives, he made an eagle, two birdies, a par and that bogey on the 10th. That was after playing almost flawless golf around the front nine. “Any time you turn under par after the front nine here, you’re happy, because it’s so tough and demanding,” he said. “I turned three-under, and having the lost ball on the 10th dampened my spirits a little, but to jump straight back with two birdies and chipping in for eagle on 14 – that really got the round going nicely again.”
The round was just another in a long series of good ones for Ritchie, who is now in contention more often than not. “It’s nice to finally feel as if I can contend every week,” he said. “A few years ago, before my first win in Zimbabwe, I didn’t really know if I was going to carry on playing. I’ve been on a high since I won there.”
That high saw him erase a five-stroke lead that the halfway leader, Rhys Enoch of Wales, had on him. “Starting the day five shots back is a big number, especially with the guys playing as well as they are,” said Ritchie. “I thought a good 64-ish would get me right back in the mix. I saw some of the guys struggled a bit out there, so I’m really happy with seven-under today.”
Ahlers was one of the guys who struggled, as he carded a one-under 72 after his brilliant second-round of eight-under. “I completely lost my swing,” he said. “It felt as if I was playing with a hosepipe.”
Nevertheless, Ahlers managed to keep in touch with the top of the leaderboard and headed to the range after his round to try and find the swing which had him playing so well in the second round.
Cannon went around without dropping a shot in his eight-under. “I have been playing well for the last couple of day,” he said. “I was just a little tidier today, and made a couple more putts, but nothing from length really.”
McGowan went round in five-under 67, after turning in one-over, and he will be looking to add a second Zambian title to his name after he won the 2015 Mopani Redpath Zambia Open at Nkana Golf Club.
But the way Ritchie was playing will make chasing him down tough. “For tomorrow, it’s all about playing the game the way I play it, playing the course the way I want to play it and not really worrying about what happens ahead of me,” said Ritchie. “They have to chase and not me. I feel comfortable. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I hope I can get another win.”