ST FRANCIS BAY, Eastern Cape – With every outing on the Sunshine Tour, rookie Keegan Mclachlan is learning, and on Thursday he broke new ground as he claimed a share of the first-round lead with Robin Williams in the PGA Championship at the St Francis Links with an impressive four-under-par 68.
The SA PGA Championship is one of the most prestigious titles in the local game with a list of past champions including Gary Player, Dale Hayes, John Bland, Tony Johnstone, Ernie Els, David Frost, Mark McNulty and Louis Oosthuizen. And this year the event celebrates the significant support of the Eastern Cape Tourism and Parks Agency and African Bank.
It is the first time Mclachlan, who has a title apiece on the Blue Label Development Tour and the Altron Big Easy Tour, has led on the Sunshine Tour.
Playing in his 11th event, he started South African golf’s second-oldest professional tournament on the back nine and birdied his first two holes, before picking up another two birdies to go to four-under through seven holes.
Back-to-back bogeys on the tricky par-four 18th and first holes were offset by three successive birdies from the fourth hole. Mclachlan closed with a bogey-five on the par-four ninth hole.
“I played quite nicely in the morning and it was a good start. There was not too much wind, but it started to pick up on my back nine. But overall it was a good round, for most of the day I kept the ball in play well, my approach shots were good and I made a few nice putts,” Mclachlan said.
“Overall it was very solid and you just have to accept the bogeys and enjoy the challenge. I feel that my game is in a good spot at the moment, I just haven’t scored as well as I would have liked, but it’s been feeling close.
“I’ve learnt a lot already in my 10 tournaments on tour but this is the first time I’m leading. It’s been a cool learning curve and I’m just trying to learn and enjoy myself as my career continues,” the 24-year-old Mclachlan said.
The South African born but England-based Williams also started solidly, from the first hole, managing to go bogey-free until the par-four 12th hole, while also collecting four birdies in five holes from the third.
He collected further birdies on the par-five 13th and par-four 15th holes, but also bogeyed the 400-metre 18th hole.
Williams and Mclachlan have a one-stroke lead over a quartet of golfers on three-under 69 – Rupert Kaminski, CJ du Plessis, Peter Karmis and Jake Redman.
Du Plessis, who started his round on the 10th, had birdied the par-four eighth hole to go to five-under and the sole lead, but he then managed to double-bogey the ninth, his last hole, to drop back.