BENONI, Gauteng – Jayden Schaper enjoyed an excellent day on his home course of Ebotse Links as all aspects of his game came through for him in a seven-under-par 65 that gave him a share of the lead with Clinton Grobler and Ockie Strydom after the first round of the Fortress Invitational on Friday.
The highly-promising Schaper began his round on the 10th hole with a birdie, and followed that up with consecutive gains on the 12th and 13th holes. A marvellous outgoing nine holes was capped by birdies at the par-three 15th and par-five 18th, seeing him go to the turn in just 31 strokes.
Schaper picked up three more birdies in four holes from the fourth, and even a bogey at the par-three eighth could not put a damper on a superb round of golf.
“Playing on my home course is a bit of an advantage because I know where certain pins are, where to miss and which bunkers to avoid,” Schaper said after his best round of the Sunshine Tour season so far.
“But you’ve still got to hit the ball well, hit the shots and make the putts. In the last couple of weeks, my tee-to-green play has been solid and I’ve been slowly getting better on the greens too.
“Today I just played really solid golf, I made good decisions and hit some really good shots. I was consistent today,” Schaper said.
The return of long-time coach Grant Veenstra from the United States may also have played a role in the impressive showing, with Schaper saying “it was the first week I’ve seen him in the last couple of months and it was really good to have him back to help out.”
Grobler, the 28-year-old Krugersdorp golfer, also started on the 10th and began the round with three straight birdies, while bogeying the 17th and fourth holes on the way to his 65. The highlight of his round was his eagle-three on the 18th.
The in-form Strydom, from the nearby Serengeti Estate, cruised through the front nine in four-under-par, but then the rollercoaster began: The 37-year-old bogeyed the par-four 10th, then grabbed a hat-trick of birdies from the 12th, dropped a shot at 17, but then finished spectacularly with an eagle on the last hole to vault into a share of the lead.
The leaderboard is congested, with five golfers shooting 66, including the veteran Hennie Otto, the American Dan Erickson, the amateur Kyle de Beer, as well as Makhetha Mazibuko and Richard Joubert.
Wynand Dingle, the winner of the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series San Lameer event three weeks ago, is in the group on five-under-par.