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Bujela and Prinsloo make the running at Randpark

Soweto golfer Sipho Bujela tore around the Bushwillow course at Randpark Golf Club in break-neck speed to join Sunshine Tour campaigner Jaco Prinsloo at the top of the first round leaderboard in the IGT Challenge Tour’s Race to Q-School #12 on Monday.

Both players boasted an eagle, five birdies and a pair of bogeys en route to setting the target at five-under-par 67.

Wingate Park’s Ruan Conradie celebrated his pro debut with a 68 to finish in third, one stroke clear of Quintin Crause, Altaaf Bux, Coert Groenewald, and amateurs Philip Geerts and Hayden Griffiths.

An eagle start set the 26-year-old Bujela on a fiery course and he quickly recovered from a bogey at the second with a birdie at the third and kept a clean card up until the final hole.

‘I actually hit my tee shot right and finished under the trees, but I had a good swing,’ Bujela stated. ‘I had 198 metres to the pin, but I had a blind shot to the green, so I aimed over the rocks and flew a five-iron in. The ball landed stone dead next to the pin and I just had to tap-in for the eagle.

‘Unfortunately I hit the bunker at the second and couldn’t up-and-down, but I recovered quickly with a birdie at the par-five third and picked up two more at five and seven. I played really solidly for the rest of the day and more birdie putts dropped at 14 and 17.

‘The 18th sets up nicely for a fade, but I still don’t know how the tee shot went left. I had a good lie and I punched out onto the green. I had a long first putt, about 30 feet, and lagged it to five feet, but I missed the par-putt and three-putted for a bogey to close.

‘Jaco set the target earlier at five under, so I was very pleased to see that I joined him in the lead. It’s the kind of start I was hoping for, and it’s great to build on from here.’

Bujela is one of 30 players from the Gary Player Class of 2017 – a development initiative announced by the Sunshine Tour in November last year – who will be competing on the country’s premier golf development circuit this season.

‘The Sunshine Tour tossed me a lifeline with free entry into the IGT Challenge Tour events and I want to make the most of this chance,’ said Bujela, who joined the pro ranks in 2013 on the back of an outstanding amateur career.

Bujela and good friend Musi Nethunzwi were the black amateurs to be selected on merit to represent South Africa in the Zone VI Championship and Bujela also qualified for the 2012 South African Open on the strength of his South African Golf Association ranking.

Adjusting to the pro ranks was tough, but Bujela earned close to R40,000 in his rookie season with a season-best tie for 21st in the Zambia Sugar Open.

‘A back injury early in 2014 wrecked my start in the pro ranks,’ he said. ‘I was out of the game for seven months and when I returned, I had to start from scratch. It felt like I had never swung a club before and the frustration was overwhelming.

‘I really battled over the last two seasons and when I was selected to join the Gary Player Class of 2017, it was like a mountain fell off my back. It’s so incredibly expensive to play the circuit when you are not earning a cheque and you miss out at the qualifying rounds.

‘To be able to play competitively all-year round on the IGT Challenge Tour and the Big Easy Tour without the financial headache is my chance to get myself back on the Sunshine Tour and I want to make the most of this opportunity.’

Picture of Bujela courtesy of  CJ du Plooy

First round scores
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA.
67 – Jaco Prinsloo, Sipho Bujela
68 – Ruan Conradie
69 – Quintin Crause, Philip Geerts AMA (ITA), Altaaf Bux, Coert Groenewald, Hayden Griffiths AMA
70 – Teagan Moore, Heinrich Bruiners, Calvin Caldeira
71 – Conner Mackenzie AMA, Bryce McCabe, Makhetha Mazibuko, John Parkinson, Jake Roos, Jonathan Waschefort, Terence Boardman, Louis Albertse AMA, Neal Herman, Duane Keun, Tyrone Ryan, Paul De Beer, Craigen Clough AMA
72 – Owen Grobler, Stephan Erasmus AMA, NJ Arnoldi, Albert Venter AMA, Mark Fraser, John McClean (NIR), Omar Sandys
73 – Christian Basson AMA, Matt Bright, Estiaan Conradie, Gregg Blainey (ENG), Jeff Hopkins (IRE), Wayne Stroebel, Thabang Simon, Ruhan Van Dijk AMA, WM Coetzee AMA, Shalan Govender, Eric Park AMA
74 – Gerard Du Plooy, Matthew Vogel, Jacopo Vecchi Fossa (ITA), Allister De Kock, Herman Loubser AMA, Shane Irwin AMA (IRE), Neal Hauptfleisch AMA
75 – Wesley Baptiste AMA, Michael Palmer, Johan Van Der Wath, Andrew Carlsson AMA, Matthew Spacey, Dongkwan Kim (KOR), Herman Steyn AMA, Bryce Myburgh, Irvin Mazibuko
76 – Lincon Cele, Neil Cheetham (ENG), Justin Turner, Paul Boshoff, Gary Daoust (BEL), Phillip Kruse AMA, Michael Kok AMA, James Ford (ENG), Stephan De Beer, Trevor Mahoney, Musiwalo Nethunzwi
77 – Phumlani Maluka AMA, Kyle Barker, Divan Marais, Hendrikus Stoop AMA, Derick Petersen, Sam Botham (ENG), Stefan Labuschagne AMA, NJ Van Der Walt AMA, Jack Kutumane, Gareth Akers, Cameron Esau
78 – Jason Thalrose AMA, Matthew Hands AMA, Eric Nel AMA, Andrew Van Der Knaap AMA, CJ Levey, Richard Tsai AMA, Dean Bakos AMA, Leon Visser AMA, Shaun van Tonder, Christopher Constantinou AMA
79 – Dylan Docherty, Ruan Korb AMA, Ryan Wingrove AMA, Jadrick Fourie AMA, Thabi Ngcobo AMA
80 – David Carroll AMA (IRE), Matt Wollmann (ZIM), Marco De Beer AMA, Duan Nagel AMA, Nicklas Van Wyk AMA, Adam Baker AMA, Joshua Leo AMA, Reinard Vermeulen AMA
81 – Mitchell Lightfoot AMA, Pedro August, Dwayne Coetzee, Mohammed Ismail AMA
82 – Mellett Hendrikse, Mark James (ENG), Richard O’Donovan (IRE), Igor Milicic (SRB)
83 – Theunis Bezuidenhout AMA, Michael Dreyer, Gary Jutzen AMA, Stephen Forsyth AMA, Gilson Filho (BRA)
84 – Dylan de Beer, Brad Harris (ENG), Connor Foley AMA
85 – Ricardo Towell
86 – Dylan Morton AMA
89 – Phillip Calitz AMA
90 – Ntswelengwe Tsatsimpe AMA

Missed the cut:-
RTD – Gareth Anderson AMA


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