Carrie Park fired a flawless seven-under-par 65 to push her way to the front in Monday’s opening round of the IGT Tour’s Race to Q-School #2 at Waterkloof Country Club.
This marks the third time this season that the petite Park leads the field on the country’s premier unisex development Tour and the 20-year-old was delighted with her timing.
Nearly all the professionals and amateurs contesting the Race to Q-School Series are hoping to lay the groundwork for the success at the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School coming up in March next year. Park, however, has much more pressing needs.
The Sunshine Ladies Tour rookie used the IGT Tour to prepare for the LPGA Tour’s First Stage Qualifier in August, where she claimed a top 20 finish.
On Thursday, Park heads back to the United States with fellow IGT Tour campaigner Nobuhle Dlamini where the pair will join up with Ekurhuleni amateur Lorra Assad and four-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Stacy Bregman for the Second State Qualifier.
The quartet will pursue one of 80 spots on offer into the Final Stage Qualifier later this year at the Plantation Golf and Country Club.
Park was understandably pleased to hit form before her departure.
‘I am obviously pretty happy after that round,’ said Park. ‘I got pretty hot on the front nine, but the back nine was much harder work. I managed to play it in two under, but to finish without a bogey tells me just how well I played.’
The 20-year-old notched birdies at the first and third, eagled the par-four fourth and added another birdie at seven on her way to the turn. She followed birdie number four at 11 with six straight pars before draining a final birdie putt at the par-five closing hole.
‘I hit the ball really well on the front nine and I putted well, too, but the back nine was just a long series of par saves,’ Park said.
‘Somehow the back nine didn’t play the same, though. It felt like it played longer, because I kept misjudging distances, either leaving myself short or hitting it too long.
‘I had to scramble to save par and even chipped in at the first short hole (15) for par. I really had to fight, but that’s why I am so pleased with this round. I was under a lot of pressure on the back nine, but I didn’t have any bogeys.
‘It’s really important to be able to save yourself at Qualifying School, because the course are set-up is really difficult. You have to hang tough and stay patient and scramble to keep yourself in the mix and that’s what I was able to pull off today.’
Park finished one shot clear of Coert Groenewald and Duane Keun, and two strokes head of rookie Kyle Barker. Philip Kruse, already a winner this season, slipped into fourth with a four under 68.
During the 2016 Sunshine Ladies Tour season, Park led the Rookie Race, but she was beaten to the title by LPGA Tour rookie Bertine Strauss. The three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour champion, making a rare appearance on the IGT Tour this week, opened with a 73 to lag eight shots behind Park.
‘Bertine is a class act and one of the players that really inspire me,’ Park said. ‘She has an incredible game and she has amazing fighting spirit, so I won’t be surprised if she wins this on Wednesday.’
By Lali Stander
FIRST ROUND SCORES
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA:
65 – Carrie Park
66 – Coert Groenewald, Duane Keun
67 – Kyle Barker
68 – Phillip Kruse AMA