Putter change puts Naidoo in charge at Players

KwaZulu-Natal’s Basil Naidoo said he felt confident about his game ahead of the prestigious Player’s Championship and not surprisingly, the Greater Durban golfer leads the first round at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City on Friday.

Fresh from a victory in the Free State Senior Open, Naidoo carded an opening two-over-par 74 to finish one stroke clear of Ekurhuleni’s Mark O’Brien.

Reigning Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Amateur Stroke Play champion Mellette Hendrikse is two off the pace in joint third alongside Lynton Beckett from KwaZulu-Natal and former champions Gavin van Aswegen and Jock Wellington.

Maritzburg’s Morgan Philips and Zwartkop senior Robin Ashby carded rounds of 77 to tie for seventh.

Naidoo switched from a belly putter to the conventional model in November and notched a third place finish in the season-opening Gauteng North Senior Open last month. A fortnight later, the country’s third ranked senior claimed his first podium finish of the season at Oppenheimer Golf Club.

The 57-year-old birdied the first and second holes and reeled in two more to negate a bogey at the par-four third. He reached the turn in 33, but couldn’t match his fast start on the tricky back nine of the Gary Player-designed championship layout.

He erased a bogey at the 11th with a birdie at the par-five 1th, but four successive drops from the 15th saw Naidoo complete the loop in 41 strokes.

O’Brien from State Mines traded a birdie at the fourth for bogey at the eighth and dropped two more shots coming home for his 75.

The evergreen Wellington turned three over, but was flawless on the back nine and shaved two shots off his deficit with birdies at the 14th and 16th.

The fourth edition of the annual limited field championship has been extended to 54 holes and Hendrikse, the current number one ranked senior in the country, is confident that he can come back strong over the weekend.

“I had a just one birdie against three drops over the front nine, but I managed to find the hole a couple of times on the back nine,” the 54-year-old Akasia golfer said after an up-and-down day.

“I’m two off the pace, so it will take a bit of doing, but I’m definitely going to shift gears on the weekend.”

74 Basil Naidoo
75 Mark O’Brien
76 Mellette Hendrikse; Gavin van Aswegen; Lynton Beckett; Jock Wellington
77 Morgan Phillips; Robin Ashby
78 Fanus van Niekerk
79 Tony Bailey
80 Derik Piek; Johan Marais; Mark Terrey; Colin Mavuso; William Skinner; Schalk Naude
81 Gordon Wessels; Chris Delport; Adrian Kriel; Kevin Curren; Ramon Rahme; Roy van Blerk
82 Mel Labuschagne; Conrad Rauch; Steve Smit; Alan Fraser; Dave Jessup; Gerhard Strydom; John Durie
83 Denis Jones; Tim Hewan; Jannie Schutte; Alex Anderson; Peter van Coller; David Konzani
84 George Bezuidenhout
85 Francois le Roux; Brian Mampies; James du Preez; Christo Reyneke
86 Dirk Swanevelder (DNK); Anton Nel; Christie le Roux; Alex Pillay; Leon Scheepers
87 Stephen Cullen (DNK)
88 Anton Bezuidenhout; Brian Dougherty
90 Gavin Light; Rodney Smith; Ben Kleynhans

To follow the live scoring, click HERE

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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