BALLITO, KwaZulu-Natal – The wind got up on the back nine but so did Dylan Naidoo as the promising young golfer soared to the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun Sibaya at the Umhlali Country Club on Wednesday.
Naidoo was level-par after the front nine, but blazed his way back to the clubhouse with five birdies, picking up back-to-back shots on both the 10th and 11th holes and the last two holes of his round, for a five-under-par 66.
This left him one stroke clear of the group of six golfers on four-under-par 67 – Nikhil Rama, Kyle McClatchie, Jaco Prinsloo, Rhys West, Richard Joubert and Lindani Ndwandwe.
The patience the 24-year-old showed in not letting the back-to-back bogeys he made on the par-five fifth and par-three sixth holes lead to frustration was the most impressive aspect of his round.
“On the front nine the weather was pretty benign, but I knew the wind would pick up,” Naidoo said. “After the bogeys, you start thinking ‘I’m one-over on the easy bit where there’s no wind’, but I was playing super-solid golf and I’d had a couple of unlucky breaks.
“So I just needed to keep playing the way I’d been playing and it all fell into place nicely on the back nine. I’ve been playing really well lately and it’s just that final part on the scoreboard that’s lacking.
“But you can’t force things, you have to let the score happen. You can’t take on flags that you don’t need to because that just leads to compounding errors instead of multiplying birdies.
“You don’t have to play perfect golf to be at the top of the leaderboard, and I’ve shown nice progression in understanding that. Long may it continue,” Naidoo said.
Umhlali Country Club was established in 1960 as a nine-hole course, but the acquisition of the design services of Peter Matkovich in 1970 led to the birth of the current 18-hole course. It may be short, but it is undulating and there is plenty of water, so the golfers are going to earn their keep in this three-round, R1 million Sunshine Tour event.