Heinrich Bruiners cruised to a marvellous, bogey-free, seven-under-par 65 to claim a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series at St Francis Links.
Bruiners grew up in George, a little more than three hours along the N2 in a westerly direction from Cape St Francis, so a little bit of blustery wind is never going to give him grey hairs.
So although the wind almost reached 30km/h on Thursday, it was no bother for Bruiners.
Things became a little gory for the rest of the field, though, with only 31 of the 83 golfers ending the first day under par. Bruiners’ nearest challengers are Serengeti’s Ockie Strydom (66), and American Brooklin Bailey and a pair of South Africans in Dylan Naidoo and Jaco Prinsloo on 67.
“It was a bit windy today, but not too bad, just one or two clubs,” Bruiners said. “Growing up on the coast, I’ve played a lot of tournaments in these conditions. I tend to focus a bit better because you have to be a bit more specific, otherwise it’s so easy to make a mistake in the wind.
“But playing in the wind feels like a bit of an advantage for me, to be honest, and I have a lower ball flight than most.”
Apart from playing what he described as his “worst two rounds for the year” in the preceding pro-am event, Bruiners has felt that he has been playing good golf, but has committed the sin of not capitalising when it comes to his final score.
On Thursday he put that right with three birdies on his front nine as he went off on the 10th and then four more on his back nine, including three-in-a-row from the 4th.
“I’m very happy because in the last while, I’ve been playing really well but I just didn’t end off rounds the way I would like. I made a good birdie on 11 today, which is quite a tough hole, so it was nice to get off to a good start.
“The next few holes were also downwind and I was glad I capitalised because I was thinking the wind was going to pick up. I hit two very good shots for birdies on the 1st and 4th holes.
“Then there were more holes into the wind coming in, but I tried to be aggressive. Last week I was in contention in the SunBet Challenge Wild Coast, but I became a bit defensive down the stretch. So I tried to be a bit more positive today.
“It ended up being a really solid round, no drops because I made a really nice putt for par on the 7th. It’s the first time in a while I’ve sunk a putt like that, so it meant a lot.
“In fact, this must be one of my most memorable rounds. I’ve played a few good rounds, but this one I’ll remember.”
Strydom also started on the 10th and had a much slower start to his ascent up the leaderboard, being just one under at the turn. The first three holes at St Francis Links are deceptive, but the 37-year-old birdied all three for a great start to his back nine. Strydom also picked up shots on the 5th, 6th and 8th holes for a top-class round of golf.
Bailey also made a leap up the leaderboard on the front nine, also collecting five birdies.