13 February 2018 – Frédéric LaCroix from France showed some serious flair as he surged to the top of the leaderboard on the opening day of the African Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Glendower Golf Club on Tuesday.
The Parisian set the first round mark at five-under-par 67 and opened up a two-shot lead over South African James du Preez.
GolfRSA National Squad player Matt Saulez is a further shot back in a five-way tie for third with compatriot David McIntyre, Yashas Chandra from India, and French National Squad members Clément Charmasson and Edgar Catherine.
LaCroix certainly had the early measure of the popular par-72 European Tour stop.
Flawless for the first 12 holes and five under, courtesy of birdies at two, eight, nine, 12 and 13, he swiftly erased a pair of bogeys at 14 and 17 with further gains at 15 and 18.
The 22-year-old from RCF La Boulie came out to South Africa with the French National Squad for the first time last year. He tied for fourth in the South African Stroke Play Championship at Kingswood and enjoyed a joint ninth place finish in this year’s edition at Pecanwood.
He was clearly pleased to be in pole position at Glendower.
“I’ve watched the BMW SA Open and I’ve seen how tough the course is, so it is very special to shoot five under,” said the Business and Economics student. “I think the key to this course is to keep it in play and I did that well. Almost. I hit almost all the fairways and even when I missed, it wasn’t by much. When you miss, you pay.
“The greens are a little faster than last week, but the fairways are much narrower and you really have to try to stay out of trouble. I made a great up-and-down for birdie after I hit my approach too far right at 15, but I hit all the other par fives in two.
“I got a little lucky at 18. The wind was into us and my tee shot stayed out and finished in the trees down the right. I had 136 metres and hit a five-iron out. The ball hit the pin and stopped six-feet from the hole. Great to finish with a birdie, though.”
Du Preez – coming off a tie for fifth at Pecanwood – erased two early bogeys and reeled in a trio of birdies down the back nine.
“I struggled with my rhythm at the start of the round and that was pretty much the theme throughout the round,” said the Gauteng North golfer. “My ball striking wasn’t great. It was definitely a grinding sort of round, but it was fun, actually. If you’re good off the tee, you can give yourself a chance to get within decent distance of the pins.”
In early January, Saulez was among seven amateurs who teed it up BMW SA Open.
The Durban Country Club golfer had secured his spot with a play-off win in one of three qualifying rounds, and he was one of only three amateurs who made the weekend.
Unquestionably buoyed by his runner-up finish in the SA Stroke Play, the GolfRSA National Squad had two bogeys on his card. However, he got into red numbers with birdies at eight, 12 and 15 and finished two off the pace with a birdie at the closing hole.
“I had a few errant tee-shots on the front nine, which didn’t allow me many birdie chances, but I made some good up-and-downs to save par to keep the round going,” he said. “I finished strongly with a couple of easy birdies at 13 and 15 and at the last hole, I hit a gap-wedge from 122-metres out to five-foot and holed for a birdie finish. It’s just the first round, but it’s always nice to get your foot in the door early and see where you can go from there.”
Thanks to LaCroix, Charmasson and 2017 SA Stroke Play champion Catherine, France also surged into the lead in the 54-hole Team Competition.
The team tops the pile at nine-under, with the SA National Team at even par.
Saulez anchored the side with his 70, Malcolm Mitchell contributed a 71 and Luca Filippi 75.
Team India is third on one-over, courtesy of Chandra’s 70, 71 from Kartik Sharma and 73 from Varun Parikh. Ireland’s A-team is fourth on two-over and the SA National Junior Team fifth on three-over.nault.
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Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of GolfRSA, a SAGA and WGSA Not-For-Profit company.