A pair of eagles helped Whitford amateur Warren Pretorius to the top spot in the IGT Tour’s Centurion Championship on Monday.
The 21-year-old New Zealand-based South African bogeyed his opening hole (the 10th), but enjoyed a refreshing change of fortunes when he eagled two par fives – the 15th and the first – for a six-under-par 66 to take pole position. Dainfern amateur Dean Martin is in close pursuit after carding a 67, while IGT Tour winner Juan Swart and three-time Sunshine Tour champion Danie van Tonder lurked closely behind after a pair of 68s left then in third place in the 72-hole event.
Pretorius, who hails from Kempton Park, immigrated with his family to New Zealand in 2006. He honed his skills on the amateur circuit abroad, but returned to South Africa six weeks ago to compete on the country’s premier development Tour in preparation for the Sunshine Tour’s 2017 Qualifying School.
‘The IGT Tour has earned itself a really good reputation as a development circuit for the pro ranks, so I decided to come back and compete here full-time to prepare for Q-School,’ he said.
‘It was a pretty big adjustment when I first arrived, because I was hitting the ball an average of 30 metres further than at home. It took a bit of time to get used to the altitude and the flight of the ball, and I was just hitting my stride when I went down with a bout of flu.
‘I was really excited to get back on the course this morning, because I just started getting used to the extra distance and I’m really pleased with this first round performance. I feel like I’m starting to show the kind of form I had in New Zealand and that’s a step in the right direction.’
Pretorius split the fairway at the 10th and was one the green for two, but three-putted the opening hole.
‘Not the most auspicious start after two weeks off, but I was able to erase the damage with a birdie at the first par five (12th),’ he said. ‘At the 15th I hit driver down the middle and hybrid to two feet and holed the eagle putt. I turned at three-under-par and went to five-under-par after I chipped in for eagle from 20 metres out at the first.
‘I birdied the next par five (seventh) as well, and finished with birdie at the ninth. It’s great to have a solid start. You want to put yourself in contention early on, especially since we have a four-round event this week.’
Martin reeled in six birdies, but lost the chance to share the lead with bogey at 10.
FIRST ROUND SCORES
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as (AMA):
66 – Warren Pretorius AMA
67 – Dean Martin AMA
68 – Juan Swart, Danie Van Tonder
69 – Carlos Arroyo AMA, Hendrikus Stoop AMA, Cameron Nesmith AMA
70 – Shaun Bernstein AMA, Hilton Hughes AMA, Stephan de Beer
By Lali Stander
Photo credit CJ du Plooy