Heinrich Bruiners utilised the services of a new putter and the presence of one of his biggest fans to overcome illness and an average ball-striking day, and shot a 68 to soar to the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the Fortress Invitational at Glendower Golf Club on Friday.
Bruiners shares the lead at the halfway stage of the R2-million Sunshine Tour event with Robin Williams (67) on 11 under par.
But it was touch-and-go whether he would even be playing the tournament after he fell ill the day before the start at the classic parkland course in eastern Johannesburg. And that’s when the inspiration of a young man named Cameron, who often follows Bruiners around the courses whenever he plays in Johannesburg, came into the equation.
“On Wednesday I had food poisoning and I really considered withdrawing,” Bruiners said. “But I decided to try and then on the first morning I saw this schoolboy who has generally walked with me whenever I play in Joburg, since he was like 14 years old. He came running up to me and said ‘I just love watching you play golf!’ He’s in matric now and when I saw him I just thought I must push through and put my feelings of illness aside.
“And then on the first hole of the tournament, I stuck it in the hole for eagle from 155m, which was just unbelievable and I just decided it was a sign and I must just let loose now. After the second round, I went to him, we had a photo, I gave him a cap and told him ‘you have no idea how much it means to me to see you’.”
His start on Friday was almost as spectacular as he birdied four of the first five holes and he was six under par through 11.
“Even though I’m a good putter, I’ve changed my putter and I really enjoy the new one. I made some really nice putts on the first five holes, so those were good holes even though my ball-striking was average – I hit only one fairway in the first eight holes.
“It was about keeping a score on the board, taking your opportunities and, as the round progressed, I felt more comfortable and started to hit the ball better. I’ve just fought hard as the week has progressed.
“When you’re not feeling 100%, golf is not the biggest thing on your mind, you just want to feel better. So I was more lenient with myself and you kind of get out of your own way.”
Bruiners went off early at 7am in the fourth group of the day from the 10th tee, alongside Trevor Fisher Jnr, who shared the first-round lead after his opening 63. But the experienced Fisher Jnr perhaps did not have as good a cup of morning coffee as he struggled to a 74 on Friday to slip to seven under, four off the pace.
Michael Hollick also began the tournament with a 63, and he could only manage a par-72 in the second round, sitting on nine under par with Estiaan Conradie and Nikhil Rama, who shot a 67 and was within one shot of the lead before bogeying the ninth, his last hole.
Danie van Niekerk produced the outstanding round of the day, a 64 that lifted him to eight under par.
Photo: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour