Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigner Nobuhle Dlamini fired a three-under-par 69 at Randpark Golf Club to be part of the chasing pack in the first round of the seventh Race to Q-School event.
Matt Bright captured his maiden IGT Challenge Tour in June and finished second in the first event of the Race to Q-School series, but has since struggled for form. The 23-year-old Pretoria player was back on a hot streak at the Bushwillow Course, though.
Bright set the early clubhouse target with a blemish-free 66 that featured four birdies and an eagle at the par-five 17th. He has a two-shot cushion, but will be wary of the pursuing pack.
A total of 25 players finished within five shots of his lead, including Philip Geerts from Italy, who has been knocking on the door in the past few weeks. Geerts dropped the first, but five gains will see him start the second round in a tie for second with Zabastian de Jager and Czech amateur Allan Jirek.
Meanwhile Dlamini struggled on the greens, but her ball striking was magnificent and she was well pleased to finish just three shots off the pace.
‘I hit 14 greens in regulation and I gave myself a lot of good chances, but missed too many putts,’ said the Swazi golfer, who held the No1 amateur ranking in South Africa in 2012 and 2013.
‘My coach (Warrick Druian) and I made some swing changes at the beginning of the year. It’s starting to feel very natural to me and my short game, especially chipping, is really solid. I had 29 putts, though so I just need to get the putter to perform.’
Dlamini will be heading to Morocco in early December to shoot for the First Stage of the Ladies European Qualifying School.
‘This week is all about putting the final touches on my game. I’m pretty pleased to be three under, because the Bushwillow course is challenging from everywhere. It’s exactly the kind of test I need right now to finalise my preparations.
‘That’s the great thing about the IGT Challenge Tour. It’s not just a springboard for the Sunshine Tour, but it’s great for the guys heading to the Asian Tour Q-School and for the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s players. Nicole Garcia, Bonita Bredenhann, Francesca Cuturi, Ivanna Samu, myself – we’ve all been playing here for years, because it helps us to keep competitive. It’s the perfect place to prepare for Q-School and for next year’s Sunshine Ladies Tour.’
Bright has further cause for concern as Dlamini shares fourth with Jade Buitendag, Luke Trocado, Wayne Stroebel, Jason Roets – already a two-time winner this season – and the young duo who have dominated the circuit in 2017.
Since they joined the pro ranks last year, brothers Ruan and Estiaan Conradie have racked up 12 victories on the country’s premier golf development circuit, including joint success in the Zwartkop Betterball Challenge. Ruan currently leads the IGT Challenge Tour Money List, followed closely by Estiaan. The Wanna Be A Champion pair also top the Race to Q-School Order of Merit, with Estiaan at the top of the pile and Ruan in right on his heels.
Another former SA number one amateur women’s player, Ivanna Samu, shot 70 to tie for 12th, while Swiss amateur Azelia Meichtry grabbed a seat on the bus at one-under with eight players.
Picture of Dlamini courtesy of CJ du Plooy
First Round Scores
All competitors SA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA:
66 – Matt Bright
68 – Philip Geerts (ITA), Zabastian de Jager, Allan Jirek AMA (CZ)
69 – Jade Buitendag, Estiaan Conradie, Ruan Conradie, Luke Trocado, Nobuhle Dlamini (SWA), Jason Roets, Wayne Stroebel
70 – Ruan Korb, Jack Duthie, Ivanna Samu, Ruan Groenewald AMA
71 – Azelia Meichtry AMA, Albert Venter, Thabi Ngcobo, Bryce McCabe, Louis Botha, Juan Langeveld, Teboho Sefatsa, John McClean (NIR), Marco de Beer
72 – Ruhan van Dijk AMA, Brendan Britten (NAM), Adam Botha AMA, Eric Nel AMA, Clinton Grobler, Teagan Moore, Jason Gilliver AMA
73 – Johan van der Wath, Armand van Dyk AMA, Divan Marais, Malachi Schulz AMA, Scott Chambers AMA, Tudor Bismark (ZIM), Patrick Thompson, Richard Joubert
74 – Francesca Cuturi, Juran Dreyer AMA, Leon Visser AMA
75 – Liam Clinton AMA, Sean Coomer AMA, Quintin Crause, Stephen Forsyth AMA, Matthew Kiewitz AMA, Mpho Mafishe, Gary Jutzen AMA, Maritz Wessels, Wayne du Toit, Romano Saincic, Jonathan Waschefort, Marcus Smal AMA, Ricardo Towell
76 – Basil Wright, Duane Keun, Jancarel Rossouw AMA, Bryce Myburgh
77 – Tertius van den Berg, Gareth Anderson AMA, Stephane van Neer AMA (COD)
78 – Michael Pfeifer AMA, Werner van Wyk, Roberto Lupini, Pieter Moolman, Divan de Villiers AMA
79 – Mohammed Ismail AMA
80 – Albert Visser, Luke Kelly
81 – Eric Park (KOR), Hanro Booysen
82 – Christopher de Beer AMA, Michael Dreyer, Christopher Constantinou AMA
86 – Deon Bredenkamp
87 – Songezo Sonamzi