Englishman Dan Bradbury led the suspended first round of the Joburg Open with an eight-under-par 63 at Houghton Golf Club on Thursday.
But South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence managed to take some of the spotlight with a historic first for South African professional golf.
Bradbury, who was given the news last Friday that he had an invitation into this tournament, made it into the clubhouse with a round featuring two eagles before the second suspension of the day due to lightning. It earned him a one-stroke clubhouse lead over Germany’s Nick Bachem.
The first round will resume at 6:45am on Friday, with the second round scheduled to start at 7:15am.
“It was pretty good to be fair,” said Bradbury. “I can’t really complain. I had some momentum on my second nine and then the first thunderstorm stopped that. But I can’t really complain with a 63. It’s as good a start as I could’ve wished for.”
Defending champion Lawrence grabbed his own share of the headlines when it was announced that he had won the DP World Tour’s Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award for his two victories – one of which was the Joburg Open last November – six top 10s and a Major debut this past season. He is the first South African golfer to ever receive this award.
Lawrence celebrated that achievement with an opening five-under-par 66 to place him just three shots off the clubhouse lead.
“It’s a dream come true,” Lawrence said of his award. “If you look at the names on the trophy, it’s incredible. A year ago I didn’t even have a category, so when I started off with a victory, it came to mind straight away to go for this award. To have accomplished it is an incredible feeling – I’m very grateful and honoured.”
Bradbury was equally grateful to have received an invitation into this tournament, and to make his first trip to South Africa.
“I got the phone call on Friday afternoon so this past weekend was just about getting out here and seeing what I could do. My mom [Sandra] is with me as well so it’s nice to have a bit of company. I’m loving it out here. I got nice and sunburnt yesterday – made that mistake.”
And he was also loving his first experience of golf at altitude.
“This is my first time playing at altitude. I’ve had a local caddie who’s been great in helping me get used to it. The ball’s going miles here. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. Both eagles [on the par-five 3rd and 5th holes] were great drives and I had nine irons into both. If you can hit it straight off the tee on those it’s key because they’re not the longest holes. I also rolled in a lot of nice mid-range putts.”