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Davidse does the job to lead Joburg Open

He fired three rounds in the 60s on his way to a share of seventh in the last Joburg Open, and Keenan Davidse was heading even lower on Thursday as he led the first round of the 2018 edition of the tournament with an eight-under-par 63.

He blazed round the Bushwillow course at Randpark Golf Club – the tournament is played over Bushwillow and Firethorn for the first two rounds ahead of the cut, before the top 65 players and ties play the final two rounds on Firethorn – with nine birdies and a bogey to have a one-stroke edge over six players on seven-under.

‘I don’t know what to say,’ he laughed. ‘It’s not like I’m shocked. I’m very happy, pleased obviously. I didn’t really have any expectations coming into the week. I’m just out here to have fun, so I’m very blessed to be playing well.’

The Davidse family had a rough run of poor health recently, so it was not too surprising that he didn’t have any expectations.

‘When I played the Sunshine Tour event at Simola, my little boy was sick with a bad chest. Then my wife had flu, and then I got flu, and lost a lot of weight. I couldn’t deal with that and the prospect of the heat in Mauritius last week, so I checked myself into hospital for four days,’ he explained.

With Bushwillow playing to a par of 71, and Firethorn 72, it’s widely held that Bushwillow is the easier challenge. Davidse was not so sure. ‘Some people say Bushwillow is easy – and I have just shot 63 – but to be fair, it’s not easy,’ he said.

‘You can’t say any golf course is easy. You’ve still got to hit the ball. The flags were pretty good. The rough’s not as up as it is on Firethorn, but it’s a good test. You’ve still got to hit your ball in the right areas and then you have to make the putts.’

In that group on six-under, one back from Davidse, were South Africans Jared Harvey, Erik van Rooyen and Ockie Strydom. England’s Matthew Baldwin and James Morrison and German Sebastian Heisele rounded out that group. They all played Bushwillow.

Harvey was bogey-free in his opener, and credited a mental change for his impressive start. ‘I made a change in the winter events on the Sunshine Tour,’ he said. ‘I try and feel like I’m there to compete and win at every tournament now. It’s tough to bring that to these big events, with strong competition from Asian and European players. But I try to keep that same attitude, that I belong here and I’ve got the game to compete.’

Strydom, Van Rooyen and Heisele all started their rounds with eagles. ‘It was nice to start with an eagle,’ said Strydom. ‘I hit my seven-iron a little bit right. I wasn’t lying too great. I just tried to get it close but it went in.

‘Then I turned two-under, and my caddie said to me, ‘Let’s chase that leaderboard.’ That’s what I did. I started with a birdie on 10, and then just made birdies all over the place,’ he laughed.

Ahead of them, Davidse is relishing the thought of taking on Firethorn in the second round. ‘Firethorn is just another course,’ he said. ‘If you play what’s in front of you, you’re going to play well, but if you play fearing the tournament, you’re going to play badly. I’ve experienced that a few times. I’m not here to paint pictures. I’m here to write down numbers. I got a good number down today and I’m just going to take it day by day.’

Part of that steely approach comes from the input he’s received from the Gary Player Class of 2017-18, the Sunshine Tour’s main development squad for previously disadvantaged professional golfers.

It benefits from the longstanding and continued support of the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB), which was founded in 1999 as the official body for golf development in South Africa, as well as the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation (EEFF) in the collective effort to use golf to improve the lives of disadvantaged South Africans.

Picture of Davidse courtesy of Petri Oeschger/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images

First round scores
-8 – Keenan Davidse 63
-7 – Matthew Baldwin 64, Jared Harvey 64, James Morrison 64, Erik van Rooyen 64, Ockie Strydom 64, Sebastian Heisele 64
-6 – Oliver Bekker 66, Mikko Korhonen 66, Dean Burmester 66, Scott Barr 65, Joachim B. Hansen 66, Richard Mcevoy 66, Nathan Kimsey 65, Adrian Meronk 65, Tapio Pulkkanen 65, Oliver Lindell 66
-5 – Ross McGowan 66, Andrea Pavan 66, Carlos Pigem 67, Daniel Brooks 66
-4 – Bryandrew Roelofsz 67, Chris Cannon 67, Stephen Ferreira 67, Henric Sturehed 67, Tyrone Ryan 67, George Coetzee 68, Jean Hugo 68, MJ Viljoen 68, Chris Swanepoel 67, Romain Langasque 68, Jaco Ahlers 67, Tom Lewis 68, Jaco Prinsloo 67, Toby Tree 67, Lionel Weber 68, Terry Pilkadaris 68
-3 – Jacquin Hess 68, Stuart Manley 68, Shubankar Sharma 69, Aaron Rai 69, Shaun Norris 69, Herman Loubser 68, Haydn Porteous 69, Phachara Khongwatmai 69, Adrien Saddier 69, Steven Brown 68, Jinho Choi 69, Bryce Easton 68, Omar Sandys 69, Sam Horsfield 68, Pep Angles 69, Adri Arnaus 69, Anthony Michael 69, Justin Walters 68, Keith Horne 69, Theunis Spangenberg 69, Masahiro Kawamura 69, Garrick Porteous 68
-2 – Oliver Farr 69, Jacques Kruyswijk 70, Bradley Neil 69, Gavin Green 70, Christiaan Bezuidenhout 69, Rhys West 69, Martin Rohwer 69, Paul Peterson 70, Zack Byrd 69, Alfie Plant 70, Ulrich van den Berg 70, Christofer Blomstrand 70, Steve Webster 70, Marc Cayeux 69, Marcus Armitage 69, Kristian Krogh Johannessen 70, Jack Harrison 69, Jeff Winther 70, Gary Stal 69, Jake Higginbottom 70, Peter Karmis 69, Marcus Both 69, Benjamin Follett-Smith 69, Daniel Greene 70, Callum Tarren 70
-1 – Vaughn Groenewald 71, Andrew van der Knaap 70, Mark Williams 70, Anders Hansen 70, Scott Fernandez 71, Dawie Van der Walt 71, Pontus Widegren 71, Charlie Ford 70, Marco Iten 71, Andre De Decker 71, Birgir Hafthorsson 70, JC Ritchie 71, Lyle Rowe 71, JJ Senekal 71, Johannes Veerman 70, Breyten Meyer 70, Jake Redman 70, Ben Evans 71, Hennie du Plessis 71, Oscar Lengden 70, Matt Ford 70, Hennie Otto 70, Thomas Aiken 70, Jack Munro 70, Scott Vincent 71, Dylan Frittelli 70, Jazz Janewattananond 70, Louis de Jager 70, Jake Roos 70, Rourke van der Spuy 70, Matthew Carvell 70, Matthew Spacey 70, Sam Chien 71, Toto Thimba 71
Par – Makhetha Mazibuko 72, Jason Knutzon 71, Kyle McClatchie 71, Jbe’ Kruger 72, Mark Foster 71, Ashley Chesters 71, Ruan de Smidt 72, James Kamte 72, David Law 72, Martin Wiegele 71, Madalitso Muthiya 71, Robert Macintyre 72, Javi Colomo 72, Duncan Stewart 71, Zander Lombard 71, Jens Fahrbring 72, Christiaan Basson 71, Heinrich Bruiners 71, Riekus Nortje 72, Combrinck Smit 71, Daniel van Tonder 71, Joshua White 72, Doug McGuigan 71, David Howell 71, Cody Martin 71, Gavin Moynihan 72, James Heath 72, Andre Nel 71, Lorenzo Gagli 72, Garth Mulroy 72, Nico Geyger 72, Michael Palmer 71, Jean-Paul Strydom 72, Tom Murray 72, Johan Edfors 72, Kenneth Dube 71, Neil Schietekat 72, Oscar Serna 72, Musiwalo Nethunzwi 71, Stuart Smith 72, Coert Groenewald 71
+1 – Charl Coetzee 73, Ashun Wu 73, Jarin Todd 72, Matt Wallace 73, Mikael Lundberg 72, Jens Dantorp 72, Justin Harding 72, Wynand Dingle 72, Tyrone Ferreira 72, Adilson Da Silva 72, Teaghan Gauche 73, Casey O’Toole 72, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit 73, Eirik Tage Johansen 73, Andrew Curlewis 73, Victor Perez 73, Chanwoo Kim 73, Matias Calderon 72, Kalle Samooja 72, Titch Moore 73, Connor Syme 73, Matthew Nixon 73, Jonathan Agren 72, Lindani Ndwandwe 73, Joel Girrbach 72, Marcel Schneider 73, Tjaart van der Walt 73, Grant Forrest 72, Ryan Tipping 73
+2 – David Drysdale 74, Alex Haindl 74, Jose-Filipe Lima 73, Steve Surry 74, Colin Nel 74, Sutijet Kooratanapisan 74, Stefan Engell Andersen 74, Simon Khan 74, Wallie Coetsee 74, Laurie Canter 74, Ryan Cairns 73, Jonathan Thomson 74, Clinton Grobler 73, Josh Geary 74
+3 – James Allan 75, Jason Froneman 74, Darren Fichardt 75, Danthai Boonma 75, John Michael O’Toole 74, Callum Mowat 75, Joel Stalter 74, Espen Kofstad 75, N.J. Arnoldi 74, Petr Dedek 75, Suradit Yongcharoenchai 74, Paul Howard 74, Luke Jerling 75, Steve Lewton 74, Aubrey Beckley 74, Yanwei Liu 74
+4 – Desne Van Den Bergh 76, Jacques Blaauw 76, Christopher Mivis 75, Sipho Bujela 76, Jason Viljoen 75
+5 – Alexander Knappe 76, Phumlani Maluka 76, Hugo Leon 77, Dayne Moore 76, Piya Swangarunporn 77, Scott Campbell 77, Dwayne Basson 76, Jason Diab 76, Thanda Mavundla 76
+6 – Robin Williams 78, Marcus Kinhult 78, Dylan Naidoo 77, Irvin Mazibuko 78, Scott Henry 77
+7 – Leorin Pillay 79, Danie Van Niekerk 78
+12 – Cameron Esau 84