2nd June 2014 | IGT Challenge Tour
Franz and Park coast to Race to USA lead
KRUGERSDORP, 2 June 2014 – Pretoria amateur Russel Franz and Huyn Park from Korea moved three shots clear of the pack in the first round of the fourth Race to the USA at Krugersdorp Golf Club on Monday.
Riding a wave of confidence after his breakthrough IGT Tour victory at Wingate Park last week, the in-form Franz shrugged off two bogeys with three birdies on the front nine and rallied with four more down the home straight to set the target at five-under-par 67.
Park dropped two shots in the swirling, gusting afternoon wind, but the 22-year-old Seoul golfer reeled in seven birdies for a share of pole position.
The GFG Academy stable mates have a slew of amateurs among the challengers in their wake, led by Jason Diab, who notched three birdies against a lone bogey to finish on two under 70.
The Ruimsig amateur shares third with Pretoria pro, Werner van Niekerk, and Portugal’s Antonia Rosado, already a four-time winner this season
Eighteen-year-old Darren de Smidt used his local knowledge to wipe out a double bogey start and two more drops on the front nine with birdies at the fourth and eighth and a string of three birdies after the turn.
The Krugersdorp amateur dipped two shots below par with a birdie at the 15th, but a bogey finish saw him sign for a 71 and a share of sixth alongside fellow amateurs Calvin Caldeira and Matthew Kiewitz.
Pollak Park’s Mpho Mafishe, Rae Mackie, Otto van Greunen, Coert Groenewald, James Searson and Race to USA Irene winner, Michael Scholtz tied for ninth on even-par.
Pretoria amateur Magda Kruger joined the bus at 72, finishing one shot clear of Ladies European Tour rookie Nobuhle Dlamini from Swaziland.
Franz believes he has turned a major corner after a good putting week at Wingate.
“I finally got my head right and I don’t sweat the bad putts anymore,” he said. “I had a three-putt at the fourth and a four-putt at the sixth when my putt spun back from the hole, but it didn’t faze me. I just got on with things and I was really stoked when I knocked in a 20-footer for birdie at 17.
“It’s a process, but I’m getting better at it all the time.”
He was thrilled to carry his winning form with the putter into this week’s event.
“If I want to win the Race to the USA, I need to catch Hyun Park and he is one tough opponent,” the 23-year-old Zwartkops golfer said.
“I would really like the opportunity to get some experience in the United States. I moved to third in the Race to the USA rankings after the top 10 at ERMP and the win at Wingate, but Huyn won at ERMP and tied for second at Irene, so he has a handy lead of about 400 points.”
FIRST ROUND SCORES
67 – Russel Franz (AMA), Hyun Park KOR
70 – Jason Diab (AMA), Werner Van Niekerk, Antonio Rosado POR
71 – Darin De Smidt (AMA), Calvin Caldeira (AMA), Gareth Akers (AMA)
72 – Rae Mackie, Mpho Mafishe, Otto van Greunen, Coert Groenewald, Michael Scholz, James Searson, Magda Kruger (AMA)
73 – Hano van der Walt, Daniel Joubert (AMA), Stephan Erasmus (AMA), Christiaan Pretorius, Nobuhle Dlamini SWZ, Lucas Steyn
74 – CJ Levey (AMA), Ian Ansett (AMA), Matthew Kiewitz (AMA)
75 – Anton Steenkamp (AMA), Karl Lehmacher (AMA), Duane Keun, Conway Kunneke, DK Kim KOR, Lean Boezaart, Mike Quinn, Andi Dill (AMA)
76 – Jerry Steyn, Hilton Hughes (AMA), Niel Meyer (AMA), Herman Minnie, Leon Scheepers (AMA)
77 – Ryan Wingrove (AMA), Stephan De Beer (AMA), Shaun van Tonder, Wayne Stroebel, Jonathan Waschefort, CK Kayumba-Mbanga ZIM, Andre Pistorius, Francesca Cuturi
78 – Michael Jooste (AMA), Raymond Mathonsi SWZ
79 – Mark Fraser, Werner Lourens (AMA), Johan Theron
80 – Khaya Jika, Pieter Van der Linde (AMA), Arno Bartholoma (AMA)
81 – Keegan Steyn (AMA), Julian de Wet (AMA), Alwyn Vorster, Byron Garvie, Jacqui Akers (AMA)
82 – Rob Menzies ENG, Stefan Malan
83 – Lydon Charnely (AMA)
84 – Russell Jaques ENG (AMA)
86 – Amerigo Renieri (AMA)
90 – Daren Malan (AMA)