Red-hot Rambo romps to SA Stroke Play lead
South Africa’s number one amateur Christiaan Bezuidenhout racked up eight birdies in a superb eight-under-par 64 to lead the first round of the South African Stroke Play Championship at Benoni Country Club on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old Nigel golfer, called Rambo by his amateur peers, was at his ball-striking best as he produced the round of the day for a two stroke lead over Chris Selfridge from Ireland.
Bezuidenhout has a three shot cushion on 17-year-old Ewen Ferguson from the Scottish Golf Union’s Mens National Team, and is four shots clear of Scott Gibson of Scotland, Swiss golfer Joel Girrbach and compatriots Andrew Carlsson, Marco Steyn and top ranked junior Kyle McClatchie, who joined the bus at four under late in the day after boxing a nine-iron from 155 meters at the par-three eighth for his second career ace.
But it was Bezuidenhout who finished birdie-birdie to sit top of the pile at the end of a calm, warm day in Benoni.
“I just played really well, especially off the tee and my short game,” said Bezuidenhout. “I missed just two fairways and had 26 putts, so not a bad day at the office, at all.”
In fact, it doesn’t seem as if the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation player has had a bad day at the office since he claimed the Western Province Stroke Play and Match Play double last April.
Bezuidenhout followed the double triumph at Strand Golf Club with four more victories and took the top spot in the rankings with win number seven at the Nkangala Mining Equipment Mpumalanga Open in September.
The purple patch continued with a six-stroke victory at the weekend when he scooped the Free State Stroke Play with a winning score of 20-under-par 268. The win came on the back of two runner-up finishes in KwaZulu-Natal, so little wonder he started this week as the outright favourite.
Birdies at the second, fourth and ninth helped the Ekurhuleni golfer move into contention, and he surged ahead of the completion with five more gains at the 10th, 12th, 15th, 17th and 18th.
“You want to get your hands on every trophy you play for, and especially the SA Stroke Play or Match Play trophies, but this game doesn’t really work like that,” said Bezuidenhout.
“It was nice to start with a solid round and put myself in a strong position. My short game was really good, especially the putts and I think eight under is a good position to be in.
“I wanted to give myself as many chances as possible to make birdies, so I’m happy I pulled that off.”
Selfridge, a third student at University of Toledo, is a member of the Irish Golf Union squad who have travelled to South Africa for summer training.
The 21-year-old Belfast golfer tied for eighth at the Free State Stroke Play, and looked just as comfortable at the 6,703 meter layout in Benoni.
“I played well tee to green, but I left a few putts out there,” Selfridge said. “Coming home in 31 feels good. This is a good position to be in so early in the tournament and hopefully I can keep myself in contention for the title.”
South Africa’s number two Zander Lombard from Pretoria opened with a 70 to tie for 15 while third-ranked NJ Arnoldi, also from Nigel Golf Club, carded a 71 for a share of 28th.