PRETORIA, Gauteng – The Wingate Park Country Club was a worthy test for the majority of the field on a windy day in Pretoria on Wednesday, but a trio of golfers in JC Ritchie, James Hart du Preez and Luca Filippi managed to shoot 67s to share a one-stroke lead after the first round of the SunBet Challenge Time Square.
Du Preez set the tone in the morning with a tremendous bogey-free round, with Ritchie and Filippi then matching him with their own five-under-par rounds in the afternoon as the wind stiffened.
Filippi started with a bogey on the par-four first hole, but recovered with three birdies on the front nine and then finished strongly with three birdies over the last five holes.
Ritchie, a 10-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, was back on home fairways after campaigning in Europe, and started superbly with five birdies on the front nine. But he bogeyed the par-four 10th to cede some momentum, and came home in level-par after a birdie on the par-five 15th.
“The par-fives allow the longer hitters to really take advantage and there could be lots of eagles coming up, but the rest of the course is really set up for guys who hit the ball straight,” Ritchie said
As much as the power game dominates at present, Ritchie does not believe that the big hitters will necessarily be at an advantage in this R2 million event that ends on Friday.
“I hit the ball really solid and only missed two greens all day. It was nice to get something going on the front nine and I made some nice putts. I thought I played brilliantly on the back nine too. I like it so it was strange not to score well, but I don’t know what happened to my putter, so I lost a bit of momentum.”
Ritchie was also relishing being back home.
“It feels good to be back home, although it’s a bit strange playing on ‘my’ grass again. I always seem to do quite well after long breaks,” Ritchie said.
Further down the leaderboard, Heinrich Bruiners finds himself in contention for the second week in succession following an opening 69.