Top-ranked Steve Williams from Modderfontein Golf Club in Gauteng made a superb start in the 28th Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Stroke Play Championship at Kyalami Country Club on Wednesday.
Williams posted an opening round of 70 to take a two-stroke lead over Rurik Gobel from Randpark. Mellette Hendrikse from Gauteng North – a two-time former champion – Anthony Franklin from Houghton and Kyalami’s own Greg Gleeson finished a further shot adrift.
Earlier this month, Williams replaced Hendrikse at the top of the Senior Rankings after his second victory this season at the North West Senior Open. The 55-year-old showed no sign of fatigue after representing Central Gauteng in the week-long SA Mid-Amateur Inter-Provincial Championship in Rustenburg last week.
‘It was definitely the kind of start I was hoping for,’ said Williams. ‘I’m having a really nice run at the moment, but we all know that in this game, it can end at the drop of the hat, so I just want to ride this horse for as long as possible.’
Williams has enjoyed unprecedented success since he returned to competitive golf on the national amateur circuit two years ago and the Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Stroke Play Championship ranks very high on the list of goals he still wants to achieve.
‘I’ve ticked a lot of boxes on the mid-amateur and senior circuit in the last two years and one of my greatest highlights was when I beat the professionals to become the first amateur winner at their SA Senior Open last year,’ Williams said.
‘To hold both the SA Senior Open and SA Senior Stroke Play title would be something incredibly special, so that is definitely on my mind. We are also championing for a spot on the four-man Senior Team that will play a Test against India in a Test in December.
‘Victory this week might give me an outside chance at making the team, so that is another goal. I’ve achieved national colours at open amateur and mid-amateur level, and I would love to wear the green and gold as a senior, too.
‘You could view all of that huge incentives or a lot of pressure, but either way, it’s still going to take two more exceptional rounds to win against the pack of guys chasing me. So, I just want to stay in the moment and keep my head in the game.’
Williams cancelled a pair of bogeys on the front nine with birdies at two and 13 and signed off in style with a birdie-birdie finish to shoot to the top of the leaderboard.
‘It’s a very, very tight course,’ he said. ‘There are so many trees guarding the fairways that anything off-line is punished. It’s so dense in some places that your only option is to punch out to the fairway.
‘I had to do that twice – at seven where I managed to save par, and again at eight, where I dropped a shot. My short game is really strong and it saved me a lot of shots out there, but I’m still working on a few things with my driver and irons, so the accuracy off the tee wasn’t always there. It’s a real shotmakers layout this, but I’m really enjoying the challenge.’
Hendrikse won his second title at Pecanwood in 2014 and was in a great position to challenge at level par through 11 holes, but he lost his footing with bogeys at 12 and 14.
‘I must admit I am a little frustrated with the putter, because it never warmed up, but at least the rest of the game was pretty solid,’ said the Akasia golfer.
‘I’m pleased that I finished nicely with four pars to stay in the mix and give myself a chance. You have to try and keep Steve on the short leash, or he will run away with this championship.’
Richard Bruyns from The River Club led the Super Senior division for players 60 years and older with a 74, one shot clear of three time SA Senior Stroke Play champion Jock Wellington, while Williams also leads the chase for the President’s Cup crown in the 55 years and older division, with Hendrikse second and Bruyns third.
First round scores:
70 Steve Williams
72 Rurik Gobel
73 Anthony Franklin; Mellette Hendrikse; Greg P Gleeson
74 Conrad Rauch; Richard Bruyns; Derek Reyneke