An eagle at the 15th sent Glendower’s Bryce McCabe hurtling straight to the top of affairs at Killarney Golf Club in the opening round of the IGT Tour’s Race to Q-School #8 on Monday.
The 23-year-old from the Wanna Be A Champion Academy put the finishing touches on four-under-par 66 with a fabulous par-save at the short 17th, which alongside six birdies saw McCabe effect an impressive recovery to lead by one stroke.
Race to Q-School leader Damian Naicker – coming off a third victory this season – signed off with a pair of birdies at the closing holes for 67, while Sunshine Ladies Tour players Francesca Cuturi and Carrie Park and the country’s top-ranked amateur Ivanna Samu are among 15 players that lie within four shots of McCabe’s lead.
The pacesetter burst from the blocks with back-to-back birdies and he reeled in further gains at five, six and nine to go five under, but McCabe almost destroyed all his good work after the turn.
‘Killarney is a shot-maker’s course and I hit a couple of loose tee shots that nearly cost me the lead,’ he said. ‘At 10 I missed my tee shot right and finished behind some trees. All I could do was punch out. I had a straightforward chip, but I didn’t execute it well and ended up three-putting for a six.
‘I had another drop right after the double bogey, got one back with a birdie at 12, but dropped at 13. I knew I’d better knuckle down and stop the bleeding and I made a solid par at the short hole and a great eagle at 15.
‘I hit my tee shot straight down the middle and left myself 178 metres to the pin. Hit it to 15 feet and holed the putt. That eagle turned the momentum around, for sure.’
After a par at 16, though, McCabe nearly messed up again at the par-three 17th.
‘Man, I made the sickest par-save of my career at 17,’ he gushed. ‘The pin was at 142 metres on the front of the green. It was an odd distance and I was apprehensive about my club selection. On the previous hole, I hit nine-iron from 168 metres, but now we had the wind into us and I worried that I would hit it long.
‘It finished short of the hole and I had to chip from three feet below the level of the green. The chip came out perfectly, though, leaving me with an eight foot putt to save par and I nailed it. Made another solid four at the last hole, too, to keep the lead.’
McCabe returned recently from Europe where he competed in the First Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School.
‘It was a great experience,’ he said. ‘I think it’s important to test yourself on the international stage to see where your game is at and try to identify what aspects need to improve. Although I missed the cut, it was worth the experience and you come back with a lot of food for thought.
‘I spent a lot of time this season just working on my game and putting in long hours of practice, because I hope to get my Sunshine Tour card next year. It feels really good to be leading. The course is immaculate and the greens are probably the truest greens in Johannesburg at the moment. It’s nice to face such a daunting course and come out in front, despite that mid-round stumble.’
All competitors RSA unless otherwise indicated and amateurs indicated as AMA
66 – Bryce McCabe
67 – Damian Naicker
69 – Jacques de Villiers, Francesca Cuturi, Carrie Park, Terence Boardman