Jaco Ahlers fired his best round ever as a professional on Wednesday as he carded a nine-under-par 61 to lead the first round of the R700,000 Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge by one shot.
He made eight birdies and an eagle, dropping just a single shot as he kept his nose in front of Danie van Tonder, who was in second on eight-under, with Doug McGuigan in third on seven-under on the 5,807 par-70 Wild Coast Sun Country Club.
‘I made a bogey on my third hole (12th), and that’s a par-five. I made a six there – so a 61 with a six!’ said Ahlers. ‘That’s the lowest I’ve shot on tour, so I’m pretty happy. Turning that six into a four, which is possible on 12, a very birdie-able hole, and I was looking at a 59.
‘But I couldn’t think like that then, at that early stage of the round. I just had a wrong yardage, or got the wind wrong and hit it in a bad spot. But I finished nicely, with two birdies in the last three, so get the confidence going, and keep it going… it means a lot.’
He got himself in contention in last week’s tournament at Arabella Country Estate, only to slip off the pace in the final round with a three-over-par 75. ‘I’ve been hitting it well for a while, and last week I just didn’t make any putts,’ he said. ‘Today I made putts and that’s the difference.
‘I’ve always been a bit of a streaky putter, never been one of the best, but when I putt well, I putt really well. I’ve been working on it. It’s a bit of confidence, a bit of technique – it just wasn’t great. I was missing three-footers and not even touching the hole. I hit it close a few times, but to make a few putts today was nice.’
Van Tonder made nine birdies and a bogey in his round, and he, too, was pleased with his putting. ‘Everything was good today,’ he said, ‘and the putting too. My caddie was reading them well.’
McGuigan’s round could have been even more impressive: He made 10 birdies, but rather spoilt things with three bogeys – two on his second and third holes of the day, and one on his last.
There was a group of three players on six-under, three back from Ahlers. Madalitso Muthiya of Zambia who won on the course last month was one, and the others were Wallie Coetsee and Ruan de Smidt.
61 – Jaco Ahlers
62 – Danie van Tonder
63 – Doug McGuigan
64 – Wallie Coetsee, Madalitso Muthiya, Ruan de Smidt
65 – Stephen Ferreira, Oliver Bekker