Thriston Lawrence fired a four-under-par 68 on Thursday to take a share of the first round lead of the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Sishen Golf Club.
With three top-10s and a further three top-20s in his seven starts on this year’s Sunshine Tour to his name, it was no surprise to see Lawrence’s name up top.
Lawrence signed for six birdies and two bogeys in his round around the tight 6,657-metre course built in an indigenous camel thorn forest in the Kalahari town of Kathu.
He was joined by Ryan Tipping and Michael Hollick with the trio one shot clear of 10 players who carded three-under 69.
‘I’m happy with my game,’ said Lawrence. ‘Obviously a break in the schedule didn’t make it easy, but I’ve been playing well the whole year, and I believe I’m due for a win.’
The key to his score was the fact that he birdied each of the four par-fives on the course.
‘There are definitely opportunities out there – the par-fives aren’t that long,’ he said.
Even though the par-fives are short, they are no pushovers for the professionals.
‘Obviously, the key is to get it straight on the fairways,’ said Lawrence. ‘My approach was to be as good as possible off the tee. I managed to hit nine fairways, so that was quite good. But that’s the key out here. It’s not that long here, so you have a lot of wedge shots in and the greens are quite tough. If you can get it straight off the tee, you can make some birdies.
‘I’m very happy – I’ll take it. If you check the scores out from the last tournament here, four-under is obviously a good way to start.
‘I enjoy the questions posed by this course. I quite fancy it from the tee-box. Obviously, there are a lot of trees and it’s a linksy vibe – you can either bomb it 280 over the trees or you can hit a two-iron and run it underneath them. That kind of choice suits me as I hit a lot of long irons off the tee.
‘I’m very happy and I can’t wait for the next few weeks.’
Tipping made an eagle, three birdies and a single bogey in his 68. The man who has won once on the Sunshine Tour – way back in 2009 – credited his change in fortunes in a season in which has made just two cuts in six starts to a change to a broomstick putter on the advice of his friend Shaun Norris.
‘It feels as if it swings itself,’ he said of his first competitive round using it.
‘With a short putter I felt my hands were coming into swinging it.’
It also doesn’t hurt that he became a father seven weeks ago. ‘That has meant I haven’t practiced as much as perhaps I should have, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing,’ he laughed.
Hollick credited his score to a change in approach to preparation.
‘I went to Johannesburg in advance,’ he said.
‘It meant that I was able to have five rounds with five completely different groups of people, rather than practicing with the same people all the time in Durban.’
With only two cuts made in six starts, something was clearly working.
For Lawrence, who plays out of Mbombela Golf Club in Nelspruit, there was no need to acclimatise.
‘This part of the world is almost like home in the bush – it’s like a golf course in the Kruger National Park!’ he said.