Scotland’s Matthew Wilson was at the summit after the opening round of the South African Stroke Play Championship at Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate on Monday.
Wilson underlined his growing status as one of Scottish Golf’s rising stars with a five-under-par 67 round that featured eight birdies.
One shot back and hot on his heels and only a stroke adrift was Frenchman Martin Couvra, and Joshua Hill from Ireland, and a further stroke adrift, two more Golf Ireland players – Robert Brazil and the evergreen Matt McClean.
Jamie Mann from Scotland and Ireland’s Hugh Foley crammed into the nine-man bus at two under with newly crowned African Amateur champion Aldrich Potgieter, his countrymen Pascal Gunther, Daniel Bennett, Stals Swart and JP van der Watt, as well as Itai Cohen from Israel and India’s Shaurya Bhattacharya.
Wilson racked up four birdies in his outward loop, but gave three shots back to the field on the 17th, 18th and 2nd holes – his eighth, ninth and 11th holes of the round. He erased the deficit with four gains coming home, including a closing birdie on the par-five 9th.
“My putting was brilliant all day and my approach game was also really nice,” said the 22-year-old Forres golfer.
“The two bogeys were a little bit frustrating, but they were on two of the toughest holes, and I did OK to not make doubles on those holes. On 17, in particular, I hit my driver right and had to take a drop in the thick rough. I chipped out. but still couldn’t get it to the green, so it could have been worse. On 18, I felt like I could have made par, but it’s a tricky hole.
“It’s been a great trip so far, even if the golf got washed out at Leopard Creek. I want to play at least another year on the amateur circuit and get my world ranking points up to hopefully represent Scotland, and I’m really grateful to Scottish Golf for bringing us to these three top events in South Africa.”
Couvra, who plays out of Dolce Fregate, looked comfortable and assured as he set the early clubhouse target.
His opening round of 68 consisted of birdies on the 4th, 6th, 9th, 11th, 14th and 17th holes, but his card was tainted with bogeys on the 8th and 13th. He was happy with the effort, but felt the driver needed polishing.
“It was a very good day out there today,” said the 19-year-old. “I like this course. I played well, especially on the par-fives. Putting and chipping was very good, but I need to spend some time on the driving range before the second round.
“The golf course is in perfect condition despite the rains that we have had. The weather is actually very nice out here and hopefully, it doesn’t rain for the rest of the week.”
Hill, off the first in the afternoon draw, produced a very solid round of golf.
He gained momentum with back-to-back birdies at the start but dropped on the 5th. Shrugging off the bogey, he birdied the 6th, and eagled the par-five 9th to consolidate his gains. He countered a bogey after the turn with a birdie on 11 and made seven straight pars coming home.
“The course was playing nicely; although we played in a little drizzle of rain all day,” said the Galgorm Castle golfer.
“I’m really pleased with my start here, especially after last week at Leopard Creek. I didn’t have the best of starts there, but I played decently in the third round which got cancelled.
“Thankfully, it seems like I brought that with me this week. I thought I putted really well, and I just played it smart and played it safe on some holes. I didn’t really want to go after pins that were tucked or anything like that. So, yeah, I am happy with my start and hopefully I can keep it going.”
Behind the pack at two under, Kenyan pair Njoroge Kibugu and Adel Balala finished in a 10-way share of 15th with South Africa’s Johann Klopper, Bryce Bibby, Ivan Verster, Christopher Bagnall, Matthew Lotz, Werner Deyzel, Filip Sakota and Oliver Goldhill.
A cut to 65 and ties will be made at the conclusion of the second round on Tuesday.