American Thomas Longbella retained his place at the top of the leaderboard after two rounds of the First Stage of the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School at Maccauvlei Golf Club on Tuesday, and seems to be benefitting from practising next to a Masters champion before the start of this event.
Longbella added another round of 67 to climb to 10 under par overall and two strokes clear of South African amateur Christopher Long, who posted a second round of 68. Austria’s Bernard Neumayer, South African Dean O’Riley and his amateur countryman Sean Cronje all finished the day on seven under par.
Longbella, who grew up in Wisconsin, says he’s loving the Maccauvlei layout which reminds him of the golf courses he played as a youngster. And without even knowing it, he says he believes he shared the driving range with the Maccauvlei master himself, Charl Schwartzel.
“Last Friday I was on the driving range hitting balls and there was just one other guy there, but he was kind of behind me a bit so I didn’t really get a good look at him. But I could just hear him absolutely flushing every single shot. Then I went out to play nine holes and my local caddie said to me, ‘Do you know who that was? It was Charl Schwartzel’. I had been really focused on my own warm-up so hadn’t really paid attention, but my caddie seemed pretty convinced it was Schwartzel,” said Longbella.
The American has loved his time in South Africa, and it’s certainly showed in his golf as he signed for a bogey-free round on Tuesday.
“It was a good day again today. I hit the ball much better than I did in the first round. I hit a lot of fairways and greens and I kept it in play off the tee. It’s been fun. This is the first time I’ve been across the Atlantic. I’ve been enjoying the monkeys on the course. I’ve never seen a wild monkey in my life and now every day I’m seeing these little guys running around. It’s been great. Everybody here has been so nice.”
The First Stage finishes on Thursday. Only the top 40 professionals and ties will progress to the Final Stage.