The 21-year-old Investment Management graduate cashed in with a flawless six-under-par 66 to lead by two strokes from recent Jeandre Fourie Classic champion, Michael Palmer.
He finished three clear of professionals Herman Minnie, Niel Meyer, Danie Pretorius, Conway Kunneke and Kyle Lee, who posted a blemish-free 67.
Payne felt a little pressure in his third start on the IGT Tour.
Eagle Canyon Golf Estate CEO, Trevor Payne, agreed to a gap-year after his son graduated from the University of Pretoria last year.
After missing the cut in the Summer Swing Centurion and tying for 45th at Ruimsig Country Club two weeks ago, Payne Senior felt it was time the young gun stepped it up.
“I guess you could say that fear pushed me to greater heights today,” Payne remarked.
“My dad didn’t exactly threaten me, but he did say he expected to start seeing some results, so I decided I better deliver before he pulls the plug on my gap-year.
“Seriously, though, I didn’t compete much at all in the last couple of years. I have studying in over the last two months, I’ve been working on a swing change. We both know it won’t happen overnight.
“I started playing again in December, but I was costing myself a lot of shots on the back swing, so I’ve been working on the plane.”
The changes are paying off for Payne, who reeled in four birdies on the front nine and notched two more gains on the back stretch.
“I drove the ball really well and hit just one bad tee shot at the ninth, but I managed to salvage a birdie after my ball hit a tree, but bounced in the right direction. I laid up with a three-iron, chipped to 40-foot and made the putt.
“The putter was really hot. I sunk a couple of long ones between 20 and 25 feet and that really feeds the confidence.”
The Golf School of Excellence is the first of seven academies to host an event on this year’s IGT Tour, and four students participated in the event.
Shaun van Tonder lurks five strokes off the pace in a tie for eighth with Summer Swing ERPM winner, David Ashley, while Paul Cuningham is a further two strokes adrift.
Amateur Christopher Hardy opened with a 76, while Loic Csizmadia, an amateur from Mauritius, carded a first round 79.
FIRST ROUND SCORES
64 – Devan Payne (AMA)
66 – Michael Palmer
67 – Herman Minnie, Niel Meyer, Kyle Lee, Danie Pretorius, Conway Kunneke
69 – David Ashley (AMA), Duane Keun, Shaun van Tonder
70 – Stephan Erasmus (AMA), TJ Bekker, Hilton Hughes (AMA), Ruan Korb (AMA), Justin Levy (NLD), Christian Olivier (AMA), Shingirirayi Shumba (ZIM)
71 – Carlos Arroyo (AMA), Jason Froneman (AMA), David Lamprecht, Dougie Meijer, Paul Cuningham, Wayne Stroebel, Johan Van Der Wath (AMA), Michael Kok (AMA)
72 – Bartjie De Klerk (AMA), Bryn Flanagan, Ryan Wingrove (AMA)
73 – Rhoan Gardiner, Michael Jooste (AMA), Pedro August, Christopher De Beer (AMA), Simon Kruger (AMA), Michael Armstrong (AMA), Matthew Vogel, Michael Van Hoeck (AMA) (BEL), Quintin Crause (AMA)
74 – Gideon Pienaar, Marais Visagie, CJ Levey (AMA), Joubert Van Eeden (AMA)
75 – Duan Nagel (AMA), Cameron Gunning, Matthew Adams (AMA), Mitchell Lightfoot (AMA), Zander Potgieter (AMA), Werner Lourens (AMA)
76 – Christopher Hardy (AMA) (MUS), Lourens Du Plessis, Christiaan Pretorius
77 – Shane Heckler (AMA), Tung-nan Lin (AMA) (TWN), Fouche Botha (AMA)
78 – Jason Ackerman (AMA), Cole Dodgen (AMA)
79 – Loic Csizmadia (AMA) (MUS), Juan De Bruin (AMA), Zarko Fabricius (AMA), Etzard Grimbeek (AMA)
80 – Keanan Aysen (AMA), David Marks (AMA), Gerard van Zyl (AMA)
82 – Sean Graham (AMA), PG Van der Linde
84 – Mohammed Ismail (AMA)
87 – Tommie Brits (AMA)
WDN – Rancan Meyer (AMA)