South African Robin Williams made a dream debut in the Alfred Dunhill Championship as he opened with a seven-under-par 65 to lead the first round of this Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour co-sanctioned tournament by a single stroke at Leopard Creek on Thursday.
Williams, who claimed his first Sunshine Tour victory in October’s Fortress Invitational, showed himself to be more than ready to take the step up to competing against a DP World Tour field on South Africa’s number one ranked golf course.
“I can always say I shot 65 at Leopard Creek. I’ll always have that,” said Williams, who leads the duo of South African Jayden Schaper and Spaniard Manuel Elvira who both carded rounds of 66. The two GolfRSA amateurs Christo Lamprecht and Christiaan Maas started extremely well with their rounds of five under par.
On a day that started in the rain and remained cool throughout, Williams did his scoring in the morning and set a clubhouse target that nobody else could catch.
“The greens were a lot firmer than I think we all thought they would be after the rain the night before. It was a bit of a surprise, but you just adapt to it. It was pretty fun out there. I took advantage of the par fives and the short holes and I putted well,” he said.
Williams has certainly been building to this kind of performance following his breakthrough victory on the Sunshine Tour.
“The last six or seven tournaments on the Sunshine Tour with that win in there gave me a lot of confidence coming into this tournament to know that I’ve got the game to win out here and compete. It’s now just a case of adapting and learning to play courses set up a bit tougher. This is all a learning curve for me in terms of trying to see what my game needs in order to compete at this level. It’s about learning to handle my emotions and not just my game in these big events.”
It’s also vindicated his decision to come and learn his trade on the Sunshine Tour after being raised in the United Kingdom. Born in Stellenbosch to South African parents from Springbok and Pniel, Williams’ father found work in the UK as a dentist and the family moved there when he was eight. He played for the England Boys and Men’s teams, competed in the Junior Ryder Cup on the same team as the twins Nicolai and Rasmus Højgaard, and then turned professional in 2021. After a brief stint on the Euro Pro Tour he decided that the Sunshine Tour offered the kind of competitive opportunities his career needed.
But he has plenty of experience lining up behind him, with former champions Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Charl Schwartzel as well as Erik van Rooyen all on four under par.
“The golf course is in the best condition I’ve ever seen it in. It was a good round for me. The golf course has changed a lot from the one I did so well on. It’s definitely tougher so I was happy to shoot 68,” said Schwartzel, a four-time winner of this championship.