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Visser leads Mpumalanga charge at Kyalami

Leon Visser edged out fellow Mpumalanga amateurs Peetie van der Merwe and Ru-Juan Lessingh for the first round lead in the ninth event of the IGT Challenge Tour’s Race to Q-School Series on Monday.

Van der Merwe – buoyed by a runner-up finish in the World Final of the 23rd World Amateur Golfers Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last week – raced through the front loop at Kyalami Country Club in 32 strokes. The HPC Tuks Golf Academy player offset a pair of bogeys with three birdies on the homeward stretch to set the clubhouse target at five-under-par 67.

Lessingh, from Walker Park, grabbed a share of the lead at five under with a quartet of birdies from the 14th hole and a final gain at the final hole and the pair held sway until Visser eagled the par-five closing hole to shoot to the top of the pile with a six-under 66.

‘I hit a great drive down 18, but I was in two minds about the approach, because the wind was blowing quite strong,’ said the 20-year-old from Ermelo. ‘I had 200 metres to the flag, but it’s an uphill approach and it felt like the wind was coming into me off the left. So I took the five-iron. I hit it to six feet and hole the putt.

‘It’s really nice to be in the mix and to be up there with two guys from home. It’s great to see Mpumalanga representing this week. They are both playing some great golf, but hopefully it’s my turn to go home with a trophy.’

Visser reeled in a trio of birdies on the front nine, but gave back shots at two and four to start the back nine three shots off the pace.

‘I wasn’t striking the ball well over the first nine holes and I found the greens a lot slower than last week in Germiston,’ said the Wanna Be A Champion Academy player. ‘I struck it well on the back nine, though, and putted nicely to birdie 10, 11 and 13. I had a three-putt bogey at 15, but birdied 16 to keep the momentum going.’

Visser said it’s been a rocky road since he broke his duck in the Services Challenge in September. ‘I did a lot of work on the range, but it didn’t reflect in my scores and I realised that I was spending too much time practicing and not playing enough competitive golf,’ he said.

‘All the practicing did pay off, though. I worked really hard on my draw, because it was always a weak point in my game, and it’s nice to know that I now have an extra shot in the bag that I can really trust.’

Visser leads by two shots from Roberto Lupini and amateurs Cameron Moralee and Louis Albertse, who share four victories on the country’s premier golf development circuit this season.

The Conradie brothers Estiaan and Ruan – the respective leaders of the Race to Q-School Order of Merit and the IGT Challenge Tour Money List – finished three off the pace in a tie for seventh alongside Jacques de Villiers, Pieter Moolman, Maritz Wessels and Sandton amateur Luke Brown, who went wire-to-wire for a maiden win in fourth Race to Q-School at Germiston Golf Club last month.

Picture of Visser courtesy of CJ du Plooy

First Round Scores
(All competitors SA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA)
66 – Leon Visser AMA
67 – Ru-Juan Lessingh AMA, Peetie van der Merwe AMA
68 – Roberto Lupini, Louis Albertse AMA, Cameron Moralee AMA
69 – Jacques de Villiers, Pieter Moolman, Maritz Wessels, Estiaan Conradie, Ruan Conradie, Luke Brown AMA
70 – Conway Kunneke, Jason Roets, David McIntyre AMA, Tristen Strydom
71 – Arno Pretorius AMA, Philip Geerts (ITA), Ruan Korb, Keelan van Wyk AMA, Matthew Vogel, Marthin Scheepers, Ruhan van Dijk AMA, Hayden Griffiths AMA
72 – Paul Boshoff, Paulo Serrao AMA (POR), Theunis Bezuidenhout AMA, Basil Wright, Anton Haig, Duane Keun
73 – Jade Buitendag, Justin Turner, Wayne du Toit, Louis Botha, Garth Wolter, Eric Nel AMA, Zabastian de Jager, Dino di Carlo AMA
74 – Scott Chambers AMA, Michael Schutz, Bryce Myburgh, Andrew Carlsson AMA, Adam Botha AMA, Rigardt Albertse AMA, Juran Dreyer AMA
75 – Wayne Stroebel, Jack Duthie, Tom Watson AMA, Stephen Forsyth AMA, Tertius van den Berg, Nicklas van Wyk AMA, Shaun Bernstein AMA
76 – Dean Berkowitz AMA, Dylan Docherty, Eric Park (KOR), Etienne Janse van Rensburg AMA, Dean du Plessis AMA, Tristan Maharaj AMA, Deon Bredenkamp, Shaun van Tonder, Songezo Sonamzi
77 – WM Coetzee AMA, Matthew Rossouw AMA, Jay Fourie, Christopher Constantinou AMA, Richard Joubert, Mohammed Ismail AMA
78 – Liam Clinton AMA, Patric Dowling AMA, Aneel Kallan AMA
79 – Adam Breen AMA, John McClean (NIR), Michael Dreyer, Ruan Groenewald AMA
80 – Hein Dreyer AMA, Armand van Dyk AMA
81 – Marais Visagie, Stephane van Neer AMA (COD), Gary Jutzen AMA
82 – Thabang Tlou, Albert Visser, Brendan Britten (NAM)
83 – Matthew Kiewitz AMA
84 – Alwyn Smith AMA, Malachi Schulz AMA, Sam Metcalfe AMA
85 – Christopher Scheppel AMA
88 – Joshua Leo AMA