Johary Raveloarison set up the perfect start to the final IGT Tour Race to QSchool event of the season with a steely five-under-par 67 in the opening round at Wingate Park Country Club on Monday.
The 33-year-old Madagascar professional racked up a trio of birdies in the last four holes to open up a one shot lead over four players tied for second.
The former Sunshine Tour player quite the tour in 2009 to focus on gaining his PGA teaching diploma.
While enrolled in the PGA course, Raveloarison taught at Benoni Country Club and ran a golf development academy in Benoni where pros were encouraged to give their time to teach youngsters from the townships and primary schools in the region.
He also frequently visited his native Madagascar to promote the game with lectures and clinics.
Now, having qualified as a PGA Class AA professional, Raveloarison is eager to take another stab at the pro ranks.
‘I’m heading to Bangkok for the Asian Tour’s First Stage Qualifier in early January, so a solid finish this week will go a long way in taking some confidence to Asia,’ he said.
‘I managed the ball really well today. I have been doing that the last few weeks, but today the putts also dropped. It was nice to get it going on the last couple of holes.’
Raveloarison started steadily with a birdie at the second and he offset a bogey at the seventh with a birdie at the short eighth. He lost the advantage again at the 12th but an eagle at the par five 13th kicked his round into high gear.
‘That was all the inspiration I needed,’ Raveloarison said. ‘My approach finished short of the green, but I hit a great chip from 20 metres out and watched the ball disappear down the hole.
‘I picked up another birdie between the short holes (12 and 16) and hit a great tee shot down 17 to set up another birdie. I had 125 metres left to the pin, hit a pitching wedge in and knocked the 10-footer in the hole for birdie.
‘I hit another good drive down 18, but the ball went through the fairway to the right. I had 200 metres left to the stick, so I went with a five-iron and whacked it proper. I struck it really well and the ball pitched on the left side of the green. I had a good go at the eagle chance, but the putt just came up short. Birdie was good enough for the lead, though.’
The Benoni resident believes a good week at Wingate could turn his fortunes around.
‘You have to take your opportunities on tour,’ he said. ‘I’ve been playing for consistency this season, but it was tough to keep the momentum going because I still have teaching obligations at Benoni Country Club. The game is finally heading into the right direction, though, and if I keep playing well, anything is possible.’
Meanwhile Swaziland’s Arthur Horne and Pretoria amateur Ruan Korb both eagled the par five second. Horne countered a pair of bogeys with four birdies to move to four under and Korb notched eagle number two at the 13th for a 68 and a share of second with Jaco Prinsloo and Italian amateur Philip Geerts.
Sunshine Tour veteran Thabang Simon, Greg Blainey from England, and the De Beer duo – Paul and Stephan – tied for sixth at three under 69. IGT Tour Race to Q-School leader Damian Naicker, Duane Keun, Werner van Wyk, CJ Levey and Johan van der Wath rounded out the top 10 at two under 70.
By Lali Stander
First round scores:
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA.
67 – Johary Raveloarison (MDG)
68 – Ruan Korb AMA, Jaco Prinsloo, Arthur Horne (SWA), Philip Geerts AMA (ITA)
69 – Paul de Beer, Thabang Simon, Gregg Blainey (ENG), Stephan de Beer
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