Local favourite Zander Lombard made a brilliant start to the Race to Q-School #14, but fellow Sunshine Tour campaigner Ockert Strydom was hot on his heels at Woodhill Country Club on Monday.
On a day where 47 players broke par, the Woodhill golfer rocketed to the top of the pile with an eighth-under-par 64.
He leads by one stroke lead over Strydom from Kempton Park, who is hunting a record 12th title on the country’s premier golf development Tour.
Pretoria amateur Dylan Kok also showed some great form in the first round to grab a share of third at five under with Englishman Neil Cheetham, JC Ritchie and rookie Kyle Barker.
Lombard won a fistful of IGT Challenge Tour titles before he joined the paid ranks at the end of 2014 and the 22-year-old he pleased to discover the Race to Q-School series was coming to Woodhill ahead of the Sunshine Tour’s Eye of Africa PGA Championship.
‘We had four weeks off since the BMW SA Open, so the chance to get some game time before next week was great,’ he said.
‘Of course, it’s great that I just have to roll out of bed with a hard bounce and I’m on the first tee. I do have the advantage in that I know the course really well, but the standard of the Race to Q-School series is always really high.
‘At this stage of the game, with only five events left in the series, it gets really competitive out there as the guys vie for the five spots into the final stage of Q-School. So I knew teeing it up this morning that I would have to bring my A-game.’
Lombard stumbled out of the blocks, but recovered quickly and fired nine birdies at his home course.
His opening tee shot rolled up behind a tree and his only option was to chip out and limit the damage to a bogey, but a string of four birdies from the third saw him turn in three under and five more birdies – including a run of three at 15, 16 and 17 – pushed Lombard to the front of the field.
‘I was really solid tee to green,’ he said. ‘The irons worked well and the putter behaved, but I still let a few slip. Still, if they gave me a 64 this morning, I would have taken it and gone back to bed.
‘It’s been really great to come back to the IGT Challenge Tour. I knew the course would test us, because they always push up the degree of difficulty to challenge the guys heading to Q-School. The tees were pushed back and there was a lot of tucked pins, and it was just really nice to dig in and get that rust off with a good competitive round.’
By Lali Stander
First Round Scores
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA.
64 – Zander Lombard
65 – Ockert Strydom
67 – Neil Cheetham (ENG), Kyle Barker, JC Ritchie, Dylan Kok AMA
68 – Ruan Botha AMA, Clinton Cheia, Jaco Prinsloo, Danie Van Tonder, Tyrone Ryan, Jonathan Waschefort, Estiaan Conradie, Madalitso Muthiya (ZAM), NJ Arnoldi
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