MILNERTON, 30 March 2023 – Just two days after a commanding six-shot victory in the South African Blind Open, Canadian Kiefer Jones made a dream start in his title defence in the 2023 ISPS Handa IBGA World Blind Championships at Milnerton Golf Club.
The Galgary golfer underlined his top billing with a best round of the week eight-over 80 in blustery conditions at the challenging links track, and finished four strokes clear of the early clubhouse leader, John Eakin from England.
“It could have been better, because I had my best birdie chances this week but I was burning the edges,” said the B3 Division leader.
“I was really happy with the ball-striking and where I was leaving shots. I needed a little luck for them to go in sometimes but I’m happy with the score I had today,” said the B3 Division leader. “I had a 15-footer for eagle on the sixth, but it ran so far past that I missed the birdie putt coming back. That’s golf. Credit has to go to my club caddie George, because he hasn’t given me a wrong putt in three rounds. If I missed, it was down to me.”
Jones’ score is all the more impressive when you factor in that he isn’t particularly used to contending with windy conditions.
“Back home if the wind blows, we tend not to go out because it’s usually a storm. I don’t normally play in wind this strong, so I was trying to keep the ball a little lower off the tee today. I hit a few more driving irons, especially into the wind and we read the wind into the putts, as well.”
Jones didn’t mince his words when asked what a victory would mean to him.
“It would mean everything. I always want to win everything. That’s why we came all the way here, and it would feel like a job completed if I won. But it’s golf. You take what you can get. So far, so good!”
Australian Paul Mckenzie carded 87 to finish third, with Canadian Darren Douma a further three shots adrift. The South African challenge was led by Ernst Conradie and Leon Strydom, who signed for rounds of 99 to share fifth-place.
Like Jones, SA Blind Open Women’s Division champion Charlene Pienaar is also harbouring aspirations of a double, especially after an opening round of 29-over 101 earned the South African a five-stroke lead over Austria’s Karin Becker.
A trio of pars at the sixth, 13th and 16th offset a smattering of bogeys in her opening round and served as the fuel the local favourite needed to put some breathing space between her and Becker, whom she eclipsed by 16 strokes en route to victory earlier in the week.
“It was really tough out there, because we teed off late when the wind really picked up,” said the petite Benoni golfer. “Having played the SA Blind Open here last year helped me to better plan my shots, but execution was difficult, especially on the back nine, where we were playing into a two-club wind. It was hard to keep the ball in play. I am really happy with the end result and excited for the final round on Friday.”
England’s Andy Gilford carded an opening round of 13-over 85 in the B2 Division and with it a six-shot lead over American Tyler Cashman.
Gilford’s round featured birdies at the 2nd and 6th but 7 dropped shots in three holes around the turn undermined his final tally somewhat. Gilford was just thrilled to have participated in an event that was essentially five years in the making due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I’m happy with my round today,” Gilford said. “ I put a lot of practice into my game before coming out here. South Africa has put a lot of work into this event, around five years with all the cancellations, and everyone stuck with through Covid. A lot of the players have been waiting for today to come and we’ve been well looked after. It’s all been fantastic, so far.”
Cashman, who won the B2 Division in the SA Blind Open on Tuesday, was happy to be in contention again.
“It’s my first trip abroad and it was such a proud moment to win the SA Blind Open. I’m happy that I have given myself a chance to go back-to-back,” the college student said. “It could have been worse today, but there is definitely room for improvement. I’m excited to have one more round to try and improve on some of the things that went wrong. It’s such a great course, but it really shows its teeth on the back nine when the wind is up, like today.”
Zohar Sharon of Israel flew his country’s flag with pride on the opening day as he signed for a round of 40-over 112 in a round highlighted by pars at the 8th and 11th holes.
Sharon will sleep on a six-stroke cushion, but he has Alejandro de Miguel in his rear-view mirror. The Spaniard won the B1 Division in the SA Blind Open by 8 shots and will be gunning for more success in Friday’s final round.
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MEN GROSS B3