Albert Venter enjoyed a dream start to his round, but then had to stay patient to ensure he converted it into a brilliant one on the opening day of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Time Square Casino at the Wingate Park Country Club in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Venter, teeing off shortly before noon, birdied the first three holes and then made sure he gave nothing away as he compiled a bogey-free nine-under-par 63 to give himself a four-stroke lead after the first round of the R1 million event.
The Silver Lakes golfer ensured he didn’t push too hard, making pars from the fourth to eighth holes, before making his fourth birdie at the par-three ninth hole. Venter went on another superb run from the 12th hole, going birdie-eagle-birdie, and then he capped his round with another birdie on the 18th, the third par-five of the back nine.
“Those three birdies in the first three holes really put my round in place, but it was important not to get ahead of myself,” Venter said. “I just tried to keep hitting greens and give myself chances.”
“I had to still go through my processes. I reached the turn in four-under even though there was only one par-five on the front nine. With three par-fives on the back nine, I always thought there would be scoring opportunities there and I just had to be patient.
“On the 13th I had only an eight-iron in, but finished on the fringe because of an unlucky bounce. But then I putted in from there, although it counts as a chip-in on the stats,” Venter laughed.
The firm greens, especially at this time of year, are what prevent golfers from really laying down the law on a course established in the late 1940s.
“Wingate Park in winter is quite difficult because the greens are quick, firm and fast,” Venter said. “That’s the defence – it’s unpredictable how the ball will bounce on them, so your approach shots have to be more accurate, you have to be more specific about where you land the ball.”
“Hitting 10 fairways obviously helped me. The course is quite tree-lined so those fairways I missed, fortunately it was not a big enough miss to land me in too much trouble,” Venter said.
Other golfers to get good returns on Wednesday were Hennie O’Kennedy, Richard Joubert and Martin Rohwer, who all shot five-under 67s to share second place.
Estiaan Conradie, Wynand Dingle, Keagan Thomas and Ruan Korb were a further stroke back after shooting 68s.
63 – Albert Venter
67 – Hennie O’Kennedy, Richard Joubert, Martin Rohwer
68 – Estiaan Conradie, Wynand Dingle, Keagan Thomas, Ruan Korb
69 – Jean Hugo, Erhard Lambrechts, JJ Senekal, Heinrich Bruiners, Dayne Moore
70 – Malcolm Mitchell, Sean Bradley, Jayden Schaper, Paul Boshoff, Madalitso Muthiya, Tumelo Molloyi, Dylan Naidoo, Rhys West
71 – Ryan Van Velzen, Martin Vorster, Jean-Paul Strydom, Ruan de Smidt, Jaco Van Zyl
72 – Sean Cronje, Thabang Simon, Luca Filippi, Keenan Davidse, Louis Albertse, Wallie Coetsee, Daniel van Tonder, Kyle Barker, Clancy Waugh, Luke Brown, Michael Kok, Kyle McClatchie, Adam Breen, Jacquin Hess
73 – Lindani Ndwandwe, Aneurin Gounden, Herman Loubser, Jake Redman, Yurav Premlall, Lyle Rowe, Merrick Bremner, Matthew Spacey, Makhetha Mazibuko, Nikhil Rama, Clayton Mansfield, Jared Harvey, Rourke van der Spuy, Michael Palmer, CJ du Plessis
74 – Therion Nel, Riekus Nortje, Danie Van Niekerk, Jaco Prinsloo, James Hart du Preez, Keelan van Wyk, Clinton Grobler, James Pennington, Stefan Wears-Taylor, Callum Mowat, Peter Karmis, Joe Long, Ivan Verster, Hennie Otto, Toto Thimba Jnr, Yubin Jung, Jordan Duminy, Teaghan Gauche
75 – Ryan Cairns, Dean O’Riley, Quintin Wilsnach, Chris Cannon, Combrinck Smit, Lwazi Gqira, Siyanda Mwandla, Andre De Decker, Jacques Blaauw, Ockie Strydom, Dylan Mostert, Pieter Moolman, Bradley Bawden, Allister de Kock
76 – Divan van den Heever, Gerrit Foster, Kevin Rhoderick, Thanda Mavundla, Jacques P de Villiers, Joshua Seale, Chris Swanepoel, Hayden Griffiths, Matias Calderon, Doug McGuigan, Leon Vorster
77 – Casey Jarvis, Harry Konig, Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Fredrik From, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Maverick Faber
78 – Dwayne Basson, Anthony Michael, Alex Haindl, Jason Smith, Stephen Ferreira, Adriel Poonan, Gerard du Plooy, MJ Viljoen, Karabo Mokoena
79 – Vaughn van Deventer, Keelan Africa
80 – Steven Le Roux, Lincon Denzy Cele, Andre Van Dyk, Christiaan Burke, Brooklin Bailey