JC Ritchie, who is still fresh from last week’s win, set the pace at the inaugural Limpopo Championship when he carded a six-under-par 66 to take a single-shot lead after the first round at Euphoria Golf & Lifestyle Estate on Thursday.
‘I managed to hit some brilliant shots coming down the stretch and made some nice birdies,’ he said after the round.
‘The birdie on 16 was a good one. I had a nice tee shot and I had a perfect yardage at 140 for the wedge. I just hit it right to the pin and I made a nice putt there. The 17th was a tricky one, I struggled to get a yardage. I had an interesting lie on the 18th and it was inspired by some adrenaline. Unlucky not to get a birdie, but I will take par.’
One shot off Ritchie’s lead are Rourke van der Spuy, Jaco Ahlers and Riekus Nortje, who all shot 67s.
Ritchie opened his round with six straight pars, then got his first birdie on the par-four seventh, which was followed by an eagle on the ninth. He made a further gain as he birdied the par-four 10th, but soon after, he made an unwelcome bogey on the 11th, his only drop in the round. Another birdie on the 12th made its way on to his card, and two more on the 16th and 17th.
Ritchie, who also won the Sun Carnival City Challenge in August, said today’s round was the continuation of last week’s form when he won the Team Championship with Jaco Prinsloo.
‘I think last week was a bit more of Jaco’s form,’ he admits. ‘Not that I played badly, but I think watching him play that well calmed me down. That also helped me a bit today just to stay patient and give myself chances.’
Ritchie was not sure how low someone would have to go to win this week. ‘I think all the players have been talking and asking what is going to be a win this week, but the common number is between 12 and 14,’ he said.
‘The guys feel like the golf course isn’t playing easy. As good as the greens are, they are tricky to read and they are going to get quicker.
‘The length of the golf course with the long rough, it can punish you. So, if you are a little bit off this week, two-, three-under par every day is a good score. You just need to keep it in play and give yourself chances often.’
This being the penultimate event of the season, the importance of a strong finish this week has not escaped the players, including Ritchie.
‘This week is big,’ he noted.
‘Especially because there is a bunch of players that will have to keep their exemptions or lose exemption this week. So, this week is very important and also for getting into the Tour Champs next week. It is big and not only for the prize money, but more of what we are playing for.’
First round leaderboard:
66 – JC Ritchie
67 – Rourke van der Spuy, Jaco Ahlers, Riekus Nortje
68 – Duane Keun, Steve Surry, Wallie Coetsee, Lyle Rowe, Neil Schietekat, Louis Albertse, Ross McGowan, Luke Jerling, Andrew van der Knaap, Merrick Bremner, Jean Hugo
69 – Marthin Scheepers, Andre Nel, Daniel Greene, Jean-Paul Strydom, Tyler Hogarty, Dylan Kok, Ulrich van den Berg, Anthony Michael, Jason Smith
70 – Jade Buitendag, Jacques P de Villiers, Keelan Africa, Doug McGuigan, Christiaan Basson, Madalitso Muthiya, Daniel van Tonder, Matias Calderon, Jaco Prinsloo, Neil O’Briain, Teaghan Gauche, Chris Swanepoel, Clancy Waugh, Andrew Odoh, Victor Lange, Wynand Dingle, Tyrone Ferreira, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Makhetha Mazibuko, Cameron Moralee, Sipho Bujela, Divan van den Heever, Desne Van Den Bergh, Philip Geerts
71 – Erhard Lambrechts, Jake Redman, MJ Viljoen, Titch Moore, Peter Karmis, Keenan Davidse, Benjamin Follett-Smith, Callum Mowat, Ryan Cairns, Fredrik From, Heinrich Bruiners, Bennie van der Merwe, Ruan Conradie, Michiel Bothma, Teboho Sefatsa, Thriston Lawrence, Pieter Moolman, Ryan Tipping, Aubrey Beckley
72 – Rhys Enoch, Ruan de Smidt, Ockie Strydom, Kyle McClatchie, Mark Williams, Altaaf Bux, Keith Horne, Luke Brown, Jake Roos, Breyten Meyer, Jacquin Hess, Robson Chinhoi, Gideon van der Vyver
73 – Jason Froneman, Michael Schutz, Basil Wright, Chris Cannon, Andrew Curlewis, Rhys West, Irvin Mazibuko, Philip Eriksson, Hennie du Plessis, Musiwalo Nethunzwi, James Kingston, JJ Senekal, Theunis Bezuidenhout, Coert Groenewald
74 – Martin Rohwer, Derick Petersen, Jacques Blaauw, Bryce Easton, Jason Viljoen, Toto Thimba, Allister de Kock
75 – Samba Niang, Thanda Mavundla, Scott Campbell, Kyle Pilgrim, Stephen Ferreira, Herman Loubser, CJ du Plessis, Joe Nawanga, Jbe’ Kruger, Colin Nel, Wayne Stroebel, Gerrit Foster
76 – Michael Hollick, Michael Palmer, Phumlani Maluka, Thabang Simon, Adriel Poonan, James Pennington, Tyrone Ryan, Anton Haig, Sean Bradley, Allan Versfeld, Brian Gondo, Ruan Huysamen
77 – Dayne Moore, Estiaan Conradie, Clinton Grobler
78 – Jabulane Mabilane, Vaughn Groenewald, Luke Trocado, Roberto Lupini, Maurice Prinsloo, Toby Tree
79 – Franklin Manchest, Fezekile Kana
80 – Francois Coetzee
81 – Thabo Moraba, Desvonde Botes