Kyle Barker carded a near-perfect 66 to summit the top of the leaderboard after the opening round of this year’s Sun City Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club.
Coming into the tournament with zero expectations by his own admission, and at the back of the 80 he shot during the practice round earlier in the week, Barker needed to pick himself up, and did just that on Wednesday.
He was two-under par and bogey-free on the front nine, but he then went on a healthy birdie-run on the homeward stretch, picking up birdies on the 11th, 12th and the par-five 14th, before making his only bogey of the day on the 15th.
‘It was an unbelievable day, really,’ Barker said after his round. ‘It was nice to make a few putts. I’m known as a good ball-striker, so if I make the putts, then I’m going to have a low score.’
He steadied himself after the dropped shot on the 15th, taking a par on the 16th, before closing his round with back-to-back birdies to take a two-stroke lead going into the second round.
‘I am happy with any score under par on this course,’ he said.
‘I’ve been coming here since I was two years old for the Nedbank Golf Challenge and I’ve always dreamed of shooting a low score here, but to actually do it feels pretty good.’
Jaco Ahlers signed for a 68 – and admitted that it’s his first score in the sixties on this course – and shares the second spot on the leaderboard with Jacques de Villiers, veteran Titch Moore and JC Ritchie. A shot further and sixth on the leaderboard, rookie Garrick Higgo continued with his great form, carding a three-under 69 on day one.
David McIntyre, James Allan, Jaco van Zyl, the defending Neil Schietekat, Jacques Blaauw, Toto Thimba, Rhys West and Jason Froneman share the seventh spot after they all shot two-under-par 70 to kick-start things in Sun City.
First round leaderboard:
66 – Kyle Barker
68 – Jaco Ahlers, Jacques P de Villiers, Titch Moore, JC Ritchie
69 – Garrick Higgo
70 – David McIntyre, James Allan, Jaco van Zyl, Neil Schietekat, Jacques Blaauw, Toto Thimba, Rhys West, Jason Froneman
71 – Ryan Cairns, Hennie Otto, Keenan Davidse, Luke Jerling, Gerrit Foster
72 – Tristen Strydom, Christiaan Basson, Ockie Strydom, Philip Geerts, Ruan de Smidt, Jake Redman
73 – Wynand Dingle, Wallie Coetsee, Callum Mowat, Michael Palmer, Keith Horne, JJ Senekal, Jbe’ Kruger, Ryan Tipping, MJ Viljoen, Lyle Rowe, Vaughn Groenewald, Fredrik From, Louis de Jager, Darin de Smidt
74 – Chris Swanepoel, Ruan Conradie, Martin Rohwer, Jake Roos, Andrew van der Knaap, Luke Brown, Rourke van der Spuy, Thriston Lawrence, Pieter Moolman, Jacquin Hess, DK Kim
75 – Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Jared Harvey, Dylan Mostert, Combrinck Smit, Heinrich Bruiners, Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Luke Mayo, Madalitso Muthiya, Bennie van der Merwe
76 – Ruan Huysamen, Herman Loubser, Doug McGuigan, Louis Albertse, Keelan van Wyk, Peetie van der Merwe
77 – Deon Germishuys, Dylan Naidoo, Riekus Nortje, Estiaan Conradie, Jade Buitendag, Anton Haig, Cameron Esau, Hayden Griffiths, Clinton Grobler, Juran Dreyer
78 – Roberto Lupini, Jacques Kruyswijk, Breyten Meyer, Jean Hugo, Chris Cannon, Stephen Ferreira
79 – Franklin Manchest, Teaghan Gauche, Stefan Wears-Taylor, Keelan Africa, Altaaf Bux, Makhetha Mazibuko, Andre Nel, Jaco Prinsloo, CJ du Plessis, Duane Keun, Jason Diab, Andrew McLardy
80 – Tyrone Ryan, Michael Hollick, Ruan Korb, Adriel Poonan, Rupert Kaminski, Cameron Moralee
81 – Sean Bradley, Sipho Bujela, Teboho Sefatsa
83 – Kyle McClatchie, Derick Petersen, Dylan Kok
84 – Matt Bright
88 – Aubrey Beckley