Ladybrandt pro Duane Keun, junior Jayden Schaper and Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Nicole Garcia all displayed some impressive skills in the wind-swept first round of the IGT Tour’s Ebotse Challenge at Ebotse Golf and Country Estate on Monday.
Keun fired an opening three-under-par 69 at the Peter Matkovich designed layout to open up a three shot lead on the field. The 29-year-old Free Stater offset a double bogey at the par four sixth with a pair of birdies and a flawless back nine that featured birdies at 10, 14 and 17 helped Keun to finish well clear of his pursuers.
Meanwhile 15-year-old local Schaper carded an even-par 72 to join Pieter Moolman from Benoni Lake – 10 years his senior – in second, while Garcia grabbed a share of fourth at one over 73 at her home course alongside amateur Hilton Hughes from Polokwane and Pretoria pair Joshua Seal and amateur Philip Kruse.
Keun has most of the 2016 season implementing swing changes to gain him greater accuracy.
The former IGT Tour winner enjoyed a fantastic spurt of form in May with two top 10 finishes and he reached the semi-final of the Zwartkop Match Play Championship. In July, he finished in a tie for sixth at the Waterkloof Challenge and finished joint seventh in last week’s Irene Challenge.
Although he failed to take advantage of the par fives on the back nine at Ebotse, Keun was pleased to keep his mistakes to a minimum in the challenging conditions.
“Ebotse is a tough layout, even on a wind still day, so to come away with a 69 in that wind felt really, really good,” he said.
“I took a conservative approach on the holes that played with the wind and the ones in the cross wind, because it’s so tough to gauge the distance. I had to hit it 30 metres further to reach the targets in the wind, but at least you knew what to hit, so I got a little more aggressive at those holes.
“My tee shot at the sixth finished just off the fairway. I had to hit my second over a hill, but I tried to aim left so I wouldn’t short-side myself. The wind pushed the ball all the right and I knew I was looking at a bogey. It didn’t help my cause that I three-putted for a double, but at least I got myself back to level-par with the birdie at seven.
“I birdied 10 to get to one under and made the most of the par fours (14 and 17) that played into the wind. It’s been really great to see that the distance I initially lost with the swing changes are starting to convert into good scores. I was a little disappointed not to capitalize at the par fives on the back nine, but hopefully the wind stays away tomorrow and I can make the most of those holes.”
Schaper, a member of the Grant Veenstra Golf Academy at Ebotse, was four over after five holes after a shaky start, but he soon showcased the skills that netted him victories in the Nomads National Order of Merit Inland at Modderfontein and the Tshwane Junior Open in July. Schaper played the next 13 holes in four under, reeling in birdies at eight, nine, 12 and 15, to finish within striking distance of the leader.
Moolman turned two under and bookended back-to-back bogeys at 11 and 12 with a brace of birdies at 10 and 13, but further drops at 15 and 18 saw the Benoni golfer come home in even-par.
Garcia followed a double bogey start with five successive pars. She dropped further shots at eight and 11, but recovered with birdies at seven and 17 to close with a 73.
FIRST ROUND SCORES
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA:
69 – Duane Keun
72 – Pieter Moolman, Jayden Schaper AMA
73 – Hilton Hughes AMA, Nicole Garcia, Phillip Kruse AMA, Joshua Seale
74 – Dean O’Riley, Simon Kruger, Gregg Blainey (ENG), Shaun Barrett AMA
75 – Shaun van Tonder, Etienne Janse van Rensburg AMA, Carrie Park, Matthew Spacey, Martin Rohwer, Jandre Fullard AMA
76 – Terence Boardman, Brandon Pieters, Damian Naicker, Nobuhle Dlamini (SWA), Coert Groenewald, Teagan Moore, Wesley Baptiste AMA, Johan van der Wath, Armand van Dyk AMA
77 – WM Coetzee AMA, Jonathan Waschefort, Ivanna Samu AMA, Tristen Strydom AMA, Albert Visser AMA, Leon Visser AMA
78 – Xander Basson AMA, Bradley Diggeden AMA, JP Schmidt AMA, Altaaf Bux
79 – Chris van Tonder AMA, Ruhan van Dijk AMA, Phumlani Maluka AMA, Jacques de Villiers, Shaun Mackeown AMA
80 – Dwayne Coetzee, Karl Lehmacher AMA, Tiaan Swart AMA
81 – Eric Nel AMA, Stephan Erasmus AMA, Nico du Buisson AMA, Bryce Myburgh, Matt Bright, Tommie Brits AMA
82 – Nicklas van Wyk AMA, Gary Daoust (BEL), Nikola Uskokovic AMA, Marc de Jager AMA
83 – Matthew Vogel, Ray Badenhorst (ZIM), Dylan Docherty, Michael Schutz
84 – Jordan Parsons AMA, David Nortje AMA
85 – Pierre le Roux AMA, Michael Kok AMA, Adriel Poonan AMA
86 – Richard Kruger AMA, Lourens du Plessis, Duan Nagel AMA
87 – Tristan Nel AMA
88 – Scott Newell AMA, Liam Bezuidenhout AMA
90 – Mae Cornforth
91 – Marco de Beer AMA, Kyle Opperman AMA, Craigen Clough AMA
95 – Schalk du Plessis AMA
96 – Jadrick Fourie AMA, Ridwaan Noor Mahomed AMA
97 – Keaton Slatter AMA