The 25-year-old Parys amateur took advantage of sunny conditions in Pretoria to set the early target at three-under-par 69.
Fellow amateur Teagan Moore notched four birdies to get to three under through 16 holes, but the Pretoria golfer bogeyed the par four 17th and had to settle for a share of second with professionals Duane Keune and Matthew Spacey.
Bonita Bredenhann opened with a one under 71 to finish two off the pace. The big-hitting Namibian leads the ladies challenge by six shots from Sunshine Ladies Tour rookie Carrie Park.
Erasmus opened with four successive pars, but misfired an eight-iron at the par three fifth and left himself an impossible putt when his chip shot landed on the wrong side of the pin. He knocked in a 12-footer for birdie at the next hole to eliminate the damage and was still level through the turn.
He short-sided himself again at the par five 15th after birdies at 11 and 13.
“I was quite short of the green, tried to get to fancy with the flop-shot and left it short of the green again,” Erasmus explained. “I hit it stiff at 17 and knocked in the birdie putt and then I hit a great flop-shot from behind the green at 18 to set up the birdie finish.
“Sometimes you do these ridiculous things when you know you should rather just two-putt for par, but every mistake on the golf course holds a lesson for the future.”
Erasmus, who won the Parys Golf and Country Estate Club Championship winner five consecutive times since 2011, played the local amateur circuit while he studied at North West University.
He began pursuing a pro career on the country’s premier development Tour since graduated with an honours degree in accounting at the end of 2013.
“The first two seasons was a huge learning curve, but this season I felt more confident of my game and mentally I felt more equipped,” Erasmus said. “But so far, 2016 has produced a mixed bag of results, ranging from top 10s and top 20s to missed cuts.
“First I injured my left wrist in the gym in February and then I injured my back working on my bike right after I tied for seventh at the ERPM Challenge three weeks ago. You have to roll with the punches, but it gets very frustrating very fast if you move three steps forward and two steps back.”
Problems with the putter only adds fuel to his frustrations.
“My game overall is solid, but the putting game gets streaky every now and then,” he said. “Today was one of those rounds where the confidence was there at the start and just got stronger.
“It’s funny how the hole is as big as a bucket some days but other days it’s smaller than a coke tin. Putting is a confidence thing. When the putter is hot, the hole is a lot bigger and today’s performance gave me a good little boost. Hopefully I can keep it there for the rest of the week.”
FIRST ROUND SCORES
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified; amateurs indicated as (AMA)
69 – Stephan Erasmus AMA
70 – Teagan Moore AMA, Matthew Spacey, Duane Keun
71 – Bonita Bredenhann (NAM)
72 – Dwayne Coetzee, Johary Raveloarison (MDG), Simon Kruger, Ruan Korb AMA, Bryce Myburgh, Adriel Poonan AMA
74 – Michael Kok AMA, Matthew Vogel, Alex Botha AMA, Warren Pretorius AMA, Ruhan van Dijk AMA
75 – Christiaan Jonck, Estiaan Conradie AMA, Etienne Janse van Rensburg AMA, Anthony Serrao AMA (POR), Wayne du Toit, Joshua Seale, Albert Visser AMA
76 – Ruan Conradie AMA, Jandre Fullard AMA, Romano Saincic, WM Coetzee AMA, Igor Milicic (SRB), Fanie Wolmarans AMA
77 – Carrie Park, Stefan Labuschagne (AM, Jordan Parsons AMA, Matt Wollmann AMA (ZIM), Stephen Forsyth AMA, Driekus Gous AMA, Duan Nagel AMA, Tristan Nel AMA
78 – Clinton Cheia, Matt Bright, Michael Schutz, Eric Nel AMA, Jacques de Villiers AMA, Jason Ackerman AMA, Phillip Montgomery, Zander Potgieter
79 – Hilton Hughes AMA, Matthew Hands AMA, Liam Bezuidenhout AMA, LJ Lowies AMA, Michael Van Rooyen
80 – Wesley Baptiste AMA, Gary Daoust AMA (BEL), Dean du Plessis AMA, Byron Sampson AMA
81 – Christopher de Beer AMA, Stephane van Neer AMA (COD), Paulo Serrao AMA (POR), Arno Pretorius AMA, JP Schmidt AMA, Nico du Buisson AMA, Thabi Ngcobo AMA, Gustav Erasmus
82 – Michelle Leigh, Angelo Marques AMA, Marc de Jager AMA
83 – Sam Metcalfe AMA
84 – Dylan de Beer, Jaco van der Merwe AMA, Heinrich Stoop AMA, Leon Visser AMA, Tobie de Haas
87 – Roelof van Tonder AMA
89 – Charles Grobler AMA
98 – Andre Ferreira AMA