12th June 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Trio shares first round spoils at Centurion Challenge
(PHOTO – Divan Marais; credit Lee Roux)
TSHWANE, 12 June 2017 – Divan Marais delighted the home crowds at Centurion Country Club as he fired a four-under-par 68 to grab a share of the first round lead in the Centurion Challenge on Monday.
The 26-year-old shares the top spot with Centurion resident and a three-time Sunshine Tour winner Louis de Jager and Randpark rookie Kyle Barker, who is in the mix for a second week running.
Amateur Eric Nel shot 69 at his home course, while Callum Mowat – a former IGT Race to Q-School winner campaigning on the Sunshine Tour – lurks a further shot adrift in fifth.
Sunshine Ladies Tour rookie Ivanna Samu also finished in red numbers.
The 18-year-old GFG Academy player joined Mpho Mafishe from the Gary Player Class of 2017, rookies Paul Boshoff and Estiaan Conradie, amateurs JP Cooper, Donald Thompson and Andrew Williamson in an eight-way tie at one under 71.
Barker claimed his maiden IGT Challenge Tour title in the season-opening Wanderers Betterball Challenge in March. He led the first two rounds of the Wingate Challenge, but his bid for a second victory faded with a battling 77 in the final round.
De Jager is no stranger on the country’s premier golf development circuit.
It’s been nearly 18 months since he went wire-to-wire in the Killarney Open, but the 30-year-old Els Club Copperleaf golfer came to Centurion with some good form, though, following a top 10 finish in Swaziland with a tie for 25th at the recent Mopani Redpath Zambia Open.
Marais might look more like a surfer than a golfer with his long beach-blonde locks, but don’t be deceived by the Billabong looks.
He used his sharp-shooting game to erase a bogey start with gains at three, five and six and rocketed to the top of the pile with an eagle at the par five 12th and birdie at 15. An untimely bogey at 16 spoiled what could have been the target-setting performance on day one, but with top 10s in two of his last four starts, Marais is a sure-fire candidate for a maiden win.
“My ball striking was really good, especially into the greens, and I made some great par-saving clutch putts that kept my round going,” said Marais. “This is not a very long or tight course, but there is plenty of water. Knowing the course definitely helps. If you hit the right spots off the tee, you can go low. I only missed a few fairways, but I was kept it in play for most of the round and that was key.”
Marais made a 20-footer for birdie at three, chipped in for birdie at five and a three-footer for birdie at six got him to the turn in red numbers.
“I hit a great tee shot at 12 and a seven-iron to 15 foot and made the putt for eagle and made a great up-and-down from the bunker at 15 to get to five under,” he said. “Unfortunately I pulled my tee shot at 16 too far left and the ball ran through and found the water, leading to the late drop.
“I’ve made a promising start and that’s all you could ask for on the first day. Now I need to keep that momentum going to put myself near the leaders, or in the lead for the final round.”