PORT EDWARD, KwaZulu-Natal – The strong winds along the seaside were a real pest for most of the golfers at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club on Saturday, but Hennie O’Kennedy managed to get the better of them as he went to the top of the leaderboard on the second day of the Vodacom Origins of Golf KwaZulu-Natal event.
Those winds eventually blew in a thunderstorm that caused play to be suspended for the day, with O’Kennedy on one-under-par for his round, and two-under overall, with three holes to play in his second round. The Stellenbosch Golf Club player has a one-stroke lead at the moment over Ruan de Smidt (70), Ethan Smith (68), Haydn Porteous (68), Conner Mackenzie (66) and Trevor Fisher Jnr, who is three-under for his round and has six holes still to play when the second round resumes at 7.30am on Sunday.
O’Kennedy said he was very happy with how things had turned out on the penultimate day of the R2 million event, saying he had been lucky with the draw.
“It was not at all easy out there and I’m very happy with where I’m sitting. I had a good front nine, starting on the 10th and reaching the turn in level par, and I think we had the better side of the draw. For the first four or five holes we were into the wind, but then the next seven or eight holes were all downwind.
“My putter has been doing its job over the past two days and I’m very pleased with it. Here and there I’ve missed putts, but these greens are not that easy. I’ve been working on something new with my coach and it was nice to see that paying off,” O’Kennedy said.
The 27-year-old’s control has been excellent and he has hit most of his greens in regulation. O’Kennedy was heading for a big finish when the weather intervened, having eagled the 544-yard par-five third hole and then birdieing the par-four fifth, his penultimate hole before play was suspended.
“I hit a good drive on the second but I was not able to get up-and-down for birdie, so I was not happy. But on the third, I hit a driver and then seven-iron to 15 feet behind the hole and made the putt, so that was quite a confidence-booster. The fifth hole is not usually that easy, but today it was downwind and I hit a great two-iron and then nudged a sand-wedge to 15 feet, before holing the putt,” O’Kennedy said.
After an up-and-down season which O’Kennedy admitted has left him a little frustrated, he is in position to claim his best individual result of the season, having finished 12th on the Order of Merit delivered by the Courier Guy last season.
“I’m in a better space mentally and with my game than last year, so it’s been a little frustrating not to score that well. But it looks like I am trending in the right direction before the co-sanctioned events,” O’Kennedy said.
He added that he was hoping the wind has died down or switched direction on Sunday morning. “I was actually quite pleased to come off because I have the eighth hole coming up, it’s a short par-three with water on the left. I spoke to one of my mates and he said he had to hit five-iron in there, so I’m hoping things are a bit calmer tomorrow!”