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27th July 2023

Spacey sets the pace in FNB Eswatini Challenge

KHOLWANE, Eswatini – Matthew Spacey has enjoyed a solid start to the 2023/24 Sunshine Tour season with five top-20 finishes, but if he had a criticism of his performance so far it would be that his scoring has not properly reflected how well he has been playing. But the 32-year-old put that all right on Thursday with an outstanding opening round of 62 in the FNB Eswatini Challenge at the Nkonyeni Lodge and Golf Estate.

Spacey’s fabulous 10-under-par round left him two strokes clear at the top of the leaderboard and, remarkably, came after he had parred his first four holes. The birdie barrage then followed with three in a row from the fifth hole and then another at the ninth was the start of another hat-trick of birdies. A third sequence of three-in-a-row began at the 13th and then he went to 10-under with a birdie on the par-four 17th.

“I’ve had quite a good start to the season, but I feel like the scores just haven’t quite been there,” Spacey said after his best ever round, by a staggering four strokes, on the Sunshine Tour. “I’ve played a lot better than where I’ve finished, but today was one of those days when everything clicked.

“I hit every fairway and I missed only one green, so I gave myself a lot of chances. Most of my birdie putts were close to the hole. My game was just very solid all-round.

“I thought I made a very solid start with those four pars because my game-plan was just to keep the ball in play and give myself chances. I just wanted to be patient and eventually the putts will fall. And then I started hitting the ball a lot closer.

“I’ve always liked the Nkonyeni course, it suits me with the way I play off the tee. But I think the way I played today, I might have shot 62 anywhere,” a delighted Spacey chuckled.

Leon Visser, who has never finished in the top-10 on the Sunshine Tour before, also produced an astonishing round to seize second place after an eight-under 64. The 25-year-old fired six birdies and eagled both the eighth and 13th holes, but also suffered two bogeys to leave him two behind Spacey.

In-form veteran Peter Karmis was alone in third after shooting a 66, while Jean Hugo continued his strong start to the season with a 67 that left him in the tie for fourth place alongside Adam Breen, Estiaan Conradie, Keelan van Wyk and Stuart Krog.

The second edition of the FNB Eswatini Challenge enjoys a prize fund of R2 million, double the amount on offer in last year’s inaugural event.