Internationals in driving seat at SA Stroke Play
The internationals laid down a speedy marker at the South African Stroke Play Championship, with Ireland’s Chris Selfridge leading the early first round action at Benoni Country Club on Tuesday.
Modderfontein’s Marco Steyn set the clubhouse target at four-under-par 68, but the Belfast golfer soon bettered this number with a 66 to stamp his authority on this year’s championship.
As the morning field finishes off, Selfridge holds a one shot lead over Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson and is two shots clear of Steyn, fellow South African Andrew Carlsson, Scott Gibson of Scotland and Joel Girrbach from Switzerland.
The Irish Golf Union (IGU) player could come under fire from local favourite Christiaan Bezuidenhout, though, who was still burning up the course.
Meanwhile South Africans Meyer Pauw and Stefan Cronje joined Irish pair Dermot McElroy and Gary Hurley at three under, while Malcolm Mitchell from KwaZulu-Natal, Jason Viljoen from Central Gauteng and Ekurhuleni’s Kevin Smith share two under with Scotland’s Bradley Neil and Graeme Robertson and Toby Tree from England.
Selfridge is in his third year of a golf scholarship at the University of Toledo, but took a few weeks off to join the IGU squad for a summer training session here in South Africa. He teed it up in the Free State Vodacom Stroke Play at the weekend and looked quite at ease on foreign soil.
“I didn’t play well in the first two rounds in Free State, but I made the cut,” the 21-year-old said.
“I shot a final round 65 to finish eighth and that gave me quite a bit of confidence.”
Although he bogeyed the first hole after leaving himself in a horrible lie with his first tee shot, Selfridge recovered well to turn in one under. He gained momentum on the back nine after birdies at the first and sixth and surged ahead after an eagle-two at the seventh and a closing birdie at nine.
“I played well tee to green, but I left a few putts out there. Coming home in 31 feels good. This is a good position to be in so early in the tournament.”
Ferguson from Glasgow had a bogey on each nine, but reeled in five birdies over the closing stretch for his 67.
“I have been working with my coach, Gregor Monks, on building a positive attitude and to avoid getting frustrated and impatient,” explained the 17-year-old member of the Scottish Golf Union’s Mens National Squad.
“I was pretty frustrated with the putter over the first nine holes, because I had several lip-outs, but I managed to find the hole with much more accuracy on the back nine.”
South Africa’s Steyn turned in level par after a birdie at the first and a bogey at the seventh and completed the last nine holes in four under with birdies at the 11th, 14th, 17th and 18th.
The 16-year-old junior from TuksSport High School was also delighted to find himself within striking distance of the frontrunners.
“This is new territory for me,” he said. “I knew my score wouldn’t stand, but to finish so close to the top players feels fantastic.”
First Round Leading Scores
66 Chris Selfridge IRE
67 Ewen Ferguson SCO
68 Marco Steyn RSA, Scott Gibson SCO, Joel Girrback SUI, Andrew Carlsson RSA
69 Dermot McElroy IRE, Gary Hurley IRE, Meyer Pauw RSA, Stefan Cronje RSA
70 Malcolm Mitchell RSA, Jason Viljoen RSA, Kevin Smith RSA, Bradley Neil SCO, Graeme Robertson SCO, Toby Tree ENG
71 Philip Kruse RSA, Robbie Cannon IRE, Geoff Lenahan IRE, Jamie Savage SCO, Kevin Rundle RSA, NJ Arnoldi RSA, Vico Kuhn RSA, Henri van der Walt RSA, Connor Syme SCO
72 Altin van der Merwe RSA, Carlo O’Reilly RSA, Tristen Strydom RSA, Henri van Waart RSA