The experienced Neil Schietekat has put aside the disappointments of the previous season and will go into the final round of the FBC Zimbabwe Open at the Royal Harare Golf Club with a seven-stroke lead after he dominated the third round on Saturday with a six-under-par 66, the lowest round of the day.
The 39-year-old Schietekat has been a consistent contender on the Sunshine Tour for the last half-dozen seasons, but in 2022/23 he finished 47th in the Luna Order of Merit. The Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club representative put it down to the challenges of competing both at home and on the Asian Tour for the first time. But the new season has started in the best way possible with the fifth win of his Sunshine Tour career beckoning in Harare.
“It was my first year out in Asia and I was trying to juggle playing on both tours,” Schietekat said after his bogey-free round on Saturday. “But by the standards I have set myself, I wasn’t great on either tour and I just kept my Asian Tour card.
“I struggled with the travel, being away from home for five or six weeks in a row, with a time-difference of seven hours sometimes, which makes it difficult to chat to your family.
“I haven’t really changed anything in my game, I’ve just been working hard and I’m taking a bit of a break from playing in Asia, before heading out in a couple of weeks. It’s about giving myself a better schedule this year.
“So now I have a nice gap going into the final round and it will just be about sticking to my guns and keep playing the way I have been,” Schietekat said.
While Schietekat is lord of all he surveys at the top of the leaderboard on 14-under-par, his 66 being two strokes better than the next best round on Saturday, he modestly said he had made several lengthy putts for par to keep his momentum going.
“I’m pretty chuffed with my score because the wind was swirling and the greens quickened up and became quite crusty towards the end of the day. So it was great to keep bogeys off my card because that allowed me to keep the momentum going. I made a lot of clutch putts for par,” Schietekat said.
Last year’s South African Strokeplay Championship winner Jonathan Broomhead, in his first season in the professional big time, shot a marvellous three-under-par 69 to land himself in second place on seven-under, alongside first-round leader Wynand Dingle (71).
Second-round leader Adam Breen is in the tie for fourth on five-under, having hit tough times on Saturday as he shot a 76. The experienced duo of Jaco Ahlers and Peter Karmis both shot 71s to also finish on five-under, while Robson Chinhoi is the leading Zimbabwean golfer as his 68 lifted him into a share of seventh place with Trevor Fisher Jnr on four-under-par.