Kyle Barker got the early jump on the field to lead the IGT Tour’s first Race to Q-School on Monday. For his first competitive outing as a professional, it was pretty impressive. The 18-year-old Randpark golfer had just one blip on his card as he cruised into pole position at ERPM Golf Club with a superb six-under-par 66.
Barker finished one stroke ahead of Garth Wolter and three shots clear of three-time Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open champion Daniel Slabbert, who was equally impressive in a rare appearance on the country’s premier development circuit.
Slabbert fired a three under 69 to join the four-way tie for third with Shaun van Tonder, Andi Dill and last week’s Killarney Challenge winner, Dean O’Riley.
Barker burst from the blocks with successive birdies and reeled in two more at four and six to turn four under. He picked up another birdie at 10 and deleted the bogey at 15 with birdies at 16 and 17.
‘It was a pretty flawless day out there,’ said Barker.
‘I got a little unlucky at 15 after I pulled my three-wood and landed between the trees. I had a perfect gap to the green through the trees and about 175 metres to the pin, and I went for the shot, but my ball clipped a pine cone and came crashing down.
‘I was back in the fairway though, so I was able to get to the green and two-putted for bogey. It was one of those things that you just couldn’t predict or control, so you just have to get over and move on.
‘I am really striking the ball well and I have been playing quite well for a while, waiting for a round like this when it all comes together. Today it was great and it was nice to see the work that I’ve been doing with my coach (Neil Cheethan) paying off.’
Barker has competed in a number of events on the country’s premier development Tour this season, but delayed his decision to turn pro.
‘I wanted to represent Central Gauteng in our title defence at the SA Inter-Provincial Championship first, to finish my amateur career on a high note,’ he said.
‘I expected to feel a little nervous, but I guess playing on the IGT Tour this season took care of the nerves. I was just really excited to get going and to produce some good golf.
‘I have to give credit to my caddie, John Mphakola, because the experience he brings is priceless. I met John when I competed in the Big Easy Tour event at Irene and when I found out that he used to caddie for my coach on the Sunshine Tour and European Tour, I asked him to join me.
‘The 18 events in the Race to Q-School series leading up the Qualifying School next March are going to be a huge learning curve for me. It’s so great to have someone like John on the bag. He keeps me mentally sharp and in the zone and he helps me with course management, but in such a way that I am learning a lot from him.’
FIRST ROUND SCORES
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA
66 – Kyle Barker
67 – Garth Wolter
69 – Shaun van Tonder, Dean O’Riley, Andi Dill, Daniel Slabbert
70 – JP Schmidt AMA, Matthew Spacey, Stephan Erasmus AMA, Johary Raveloarison (MDG), Paul De Beer, David Ashley (ENG), Andrew Carlsson AMA, Matthew Vogel