Sandton amateur Luke Brown carded a stunning nine-under-par 63 in the opening round of the IGT Challenge Tour’s fourth Race to Q-School to take pole position at Germiston Golf Club on Monday.
Playing the course blind, the 19-year-old took advantage of the sunny morning conditions to open up a four-shot lead over rookie Zabastian de Jager.
Kyle Lucas is five off the pace, while Korea’s Eric Park shares fourth on three under with rookie Peetie van der Merwe and South Africa’s top-ranked amateur Kyle McClatchie.
Brown hit 16 greens in regulation as he went around the par-72 layout in clinical fashion. He produced six birdies on the front loop and, despite a three-putt a bogey at 10, maintained the momentum with four more gains on the back nine.
The teenager was over the moon with his score. ‘If you’d have offered me seven under at the start of the day I would have ripped your hand off,’ said the Country Club Johannesburg golfer. ‘Even though we had placing and it won’t be official, it was one shot better than the course record. And two shots better than my previous best at Ruimsig during the scratch league final two years ago.
‘I’ve never played this course before and perhaps that’s why I played it so well. I just played the course hole by hole, shot for shot. My ball striking was on and I putted very well. I gave myself a lot of chances and bar one, all my birdie putts were between eight and 12 feet.
‘It’s always a bit disappointing when you are on a great run and you three-putt for bogey. It left a sour taste, but I knew I had some more opportunities with eight holes to play. I had two eagle chances, which I converted for birdies. My other highlights was a great up-and-down from 10 metres short of the green for birdie at four and the 15-foot slider I made for birdie at 15.
‘It was a pity that I couldn’t take advantage of the last par five, though. I hit my tee shot in the trees and had to lay up at 16. I had 130 metres to the pin and hit it to 10 feet, but the putt just didn’t break as much as I anticipated and I missed the birdie chance.’
The 2017 season has been a baptism of fire for Brown.
After matriculating from Bryanston High School last year, he began campaigning on the country’s premier golf development tour in January, but his lack of experience showed.
‘I used to play the junior amateur circuit in the school holidays, but I didn’t compete on the national amateur circuit once I started high school,’ he said.
‘I battled at the start, but I’ve definitely improved as I’ve gained experience. I’ve finished in the money six times in 12 starts since April, including the last two events. I played the Ekurhuleni Open in last month and I was stoked to tie for 13th.’
Spurred on by fellow Central Gauteng amateur Cameron Moralee, who became the fifth amateur winner this season in last week’s third Race to Q-School title at Ruimsig Country Club, Brown is hopeful of a maiden victory but trying to keep a level head.
‘I’m trying not to get ahead of myself,’ he said. ‘I would love to go all the way and that’s why it’s nice to have a four-shot lead, just in case I become unstuck in round two. But this is all part of the learning curve.
‘It’s the first time I’m leading on the IGT Tour, so a brand new experience for me. The goal will be to stay in the moment, to look after the lead, but to guard against complacency. Hopefully I can give myself some chances and we will see what happens.’
Picture of Brown courtesy of CJ du Plooy
First Round Scores
All competitors SA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA:
63 – Luke Brown AMA
67 – Zabastian De Jager
68 – Kyle Lucas
69 – Peetie van der Merwe AMA, Eric Park (KOR), Kyle McClatchie AMA
70 – Cameron Gunning, Brandon Pieters, Luke Trocado
71 – Ivanna Samu, Jason Roets, Ruan Korb, Bradley Diggeden AMA
72 – Tertius van den Berg, Conway Kunneke, Pieter Moolman, Patrick Thompson
73 – Bennie van der Merwe, Angus Ellis-Cole AMA, Adam Botha AMA, Philip Geerts (ITA), Richard Joubert, Louis Albertse AMA, Martin Odendaal AMA
74 – Nico du Buisson AMA, Keaton Slatter AMA, Cameron Moralee AMA, Ruben Labuschagne
75 – Jadrick Fourie AMA, Liam Clinton AMA, Jade Buitendag, Michael Schutz, Jihwan Yeom AMA, Mpho Mafishe
76 – Dino di Carlo AMA, Jack Duthie, Shaun van Tonder, Teboho Sefatsa, Bryce Myburgh, Kyle Opperman AMA
77 – Chase Paton AMA
78 – Jabulane Mabilane, Gareth Anderson AMA, Michael Dreyer, Michael Kok AMA
79 – Paulo Serrao AMA (POR), Adrian Brabson AMA, Byron Sampson AMA, Thabi Ngcobo, Ruan Groenewald AMA, Romano Saincic, Keanu Pestana AMA
80 – Duan Nagel AMA, Jesse Jacobs AMA
81 – Shalan Govender, Dean Berkowitz AMA, Dean du Plessis AMA, Quintin Crause
82 – Matthew Hands AMA
85 – Divan de Villiers AMA
86 – Malachi Schulz AMA