BELA BELA, Limpopo – The calm of the bushveld seemed to inspire South Africa’s Ruan de Smidt as he signed for a bogey-free eight-under-par 64 that places him one stroke off the lead of Switzerland’s Joel Girrbach after Thursday’s first round of the SDC Open hosted by Zebula Golf Estate and Spa.
Girrbach, who was only notified that he was into this tournament on Sunday and flew out of Europe to arrive on Tuesday afternoon, opened with a nine-under 63 at Elements Private Golf Reserve which is the other golf course hosting the first two rounds of this Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournament.
He had a slow start but still managed to turn in three under, and then really found his form on the back nine and made six birdies in seven holes.
“I didn’t start too well and struggled over the first few holes, but after that I somehow found my game. I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for this week so this start is great,” he said.
De Smidt was equally pleased with his start at Zebula. The Krugersdorp golfer admits he’s struggled to start well in tournaments for some time now, but a 65 in the opening round of last week’s Steyn City Championship gave him much-needed confidence that he’s brought with him into this week.
“I putted really well today. I didn’t hit a lot of fairways but was fortunately never out of play. It never really looked like I was going to make a bogey. On one hole where I missed the green I chipped in. So I felt I was pretty solid. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my game and then made a birdie on my second hole (the 11th) and went from there,” said the four-time winner on the Sunshine Tour who is looking for his first victory on the Tour since 2016. His last professional victory was in 2019 on the Big Easy Tour.
Frenchman Clement Sordet is tied for second with De Smidt following a 64 of his own at Zebula.
The Zebula course yielded the lower scoring on day one, but tournament leader Girrbach is not buying into any talk of it being easier than Elements.
“They are two very different golf courses. I really like Elements. It was quite tricky with the wind. Zebula is different and you have a bit more room off the tee, but it’s still a test.” – Michael Vlismas
Photo Credit: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour