BELA-BELA (Limpopo) – Before Thursday’s first round of the SDC Open at the Zebula Golf Estate and Spa, JJ Senekal watched an episode of the new Netflix golf documentary, “Full Swing”. In it Major champion Brooks Koepka verbalised exactly what Senekal felt as he went on to open with a 10-under-par 62 and lead this tournament.
“Koepka spoke about how within the first couple of holes of your round you know if it’s on or not. That’s what happened to me over the first five holes today. I knew it was on,” said Senekal as he played his way to seven birdies, two eagles and one bogey for a two-stroke lead over fellow South African Martin Vorster. Herman Loubser is also well-placed three shots off the lead.
Senekal’s first five holes certainly gave him confirmation of a good day coming as he teed off the 10th and played them in three under par. Then came an eagle on the par-five 15th and a birdie on the par-four 16th that was impressive enough to even get a few wildebeest to lift their heads from their grazing.
“It was a hot start. I felt I needed that eagle on 15if I wanted to get a low round going. Then I eagled my 11th hole (the par-five second) and I knew I was in for a good round.”
A lapse in concentration and the wrong club selection led to a bogey on his 12th hole, but three birdies coming home quickly sorted that out.
Senekal has been waiting for this round amidst a season of remarkable consistency that has been highlighted by a sixth-place finish in November’s Joburg Open and then 14th in the recent Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open and sixth in last week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am.
It came on Thursday on a golf course he’s always loved since he made his amateur debut for South Africa here 16 years ago in a Test against England, playing against the same Ashley Chesters who was his professional playing partner on Thursday.
“I’ve been knocking on the door for quite a while. With the results I’ve had in the past four months I knew there was a low round in there somewhere, and here she is.”
Senekal finished seventh in last year’s SDC Open and clearly enjoys this bushveld layout. “I like tree-lined golf courses because of the targeting it gives you. You have to be straight off the tee here and I think I got that right. You have to keep it in play here and it’s soft enough at the moment where you can fire at flags. You just need to stay patient and there are a lot of birdies out there.”
Behind him, Vorster was delighted with his round, especially after a warm-up that wasn’t ideal by his standards.
“This morning on the range I didn’t have the greatest session but we went out with the mindset that I’ve been playing well so I’ll just keep committing to shots, and I’m very happy with the result. I love being in the bushveld and the course suits me,” he said. – Michael Vlismas