Toto Thimba Jnr made two eagles and seven birdies on his way to a bogey-free round of 11-under-par 61 on day one of the eighth Altron Big Easy Tour event at Dainfern Golf Estate.
The 2019 KCB Karen Masters champion got off to a flying start in this first tournament of the new year, going five under on the front nine, thanks to a pair of eagles and a birdie on that stretch.
Thimba Jnr, who plays out of Silver Lakes Country Club, did not relent on the homeward nine and made six birdies for a 61.
He holds a three-shot lead over the trio of Henning du Plooy, Noel Anderson and Leon Vorster, who share the second spot on eight under.
“I have worked so hard this December after we returned from Mauritius,” said Thimba Jnr. “I did a lot of training in the gym – lost some weight – and mentally I am very strong.
“I drove it well today but I think I putted really well, too. I found the putter I used as an amateur and started using it in Mauritius and it was OK. But, today, it felt good. I read the greens well.
“I am preparing myself for some of the big events that are coming up and to start a new year and a tournament this way is huge for my confidence. I feel like I am beginning to play solid golf again and I just want to keep the momentum.”
Anderson attributed his own brilliant round at Dainfern to a change of strategy. The Fancourt player says his position on the Order of Merit (81st) required that he change tactics if he is to move up the rankings before the season ends.
“I putted quite nicely today and that is what I have been struggling with during the course of the season,” said Noel of his opening round at Dainfern. “I am glad it’s reflecting on the score. I didn’t make a lot of mistakes and that’s why I didn’t make any bogeys today.
“The greens are big here, so I could afford to come onto the greens with some longer clubs. I was a little aggressive today and I think I will do the same tomorrow because that’s what has been holding me back. I feel like I have been playing too tentatively and playing away from the flag and just trying to make cuts.
“But, the truth is that I am in a position on the Order of Merit where I need a win or a second place. My mentality now is just to go for it because the season is coming to an end and I must improve my position on the Order of Merit.”
Amateur Pascal Gunther and Paul Boshoff share fifth spot on the leaderboard after rounds of 65. Sabelo Majola, Callum Mowat, Warwick Purchase and Gregory McKay all shot 66s to tie the ninth position while Jastice Mashego, Werner Deyzel, Slade Pickering, Ruan de Smidt, Marthin Scheepers and Andrew McLardy signed for rounds of 67 to share the 10th spot.