12th February 2018 | IGT Golf

Lupini, Van Dijk shares Killarney lead

(PHOTO – Ruhan van Dijk; credit CJ du Plooy)

Lali Stander

JOHANNESBURG, 12 February 2018 – Roberto Lupini set the early benchmark at seven-under-par 65, but the former Sunshine Tour campaigner shares the first round lead with Kempton Park amateur Ruhan van Dijk, who matched his target in the 15th event of the IGT Challenge Tour Race to Q-School Series at Killarney Country Club on Monday.

Lupini dropped successive shots at six and seven and a further drop at 11 nullified the trio of birdies he made in the first four holes. However, an eagle at the par-five fifth and birdies at 15, 16 and 17 saw the 34-year-old Country Club Johannesburg golfer surge the top of the pile.

Van Dijk – who drives and putts right-handed, but chips left-handed – also opened his account with a birdie, but he lost the advantage with a soft bogey at three.

“I hit my driver left and had to punch out low beneath the trees,” said the 21-year-old. “I chipped from about three metres short of the green but the par putt pulled up just short of the cup. “I made two solid birdies at five and seven, though, and kept the card clean on the back nine.”

Like Lupini, Van Dijk birdied 15, 16 and 18 to grab a share of the lead.

“I’ve been in this position before on the amateur circuit,” said the Wanna Be A Champion Academy player. “It’s just a question of staying in the moment out there and not allowing the guys breathing down your neck to break your focus on your own game.”

Lupini and Van Dijk are both heading to the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School in March.

Both golfers hope to skip First Stage by finishing in the top 10 spot in the Race to Q-School Order of Merit at the end of the 18-event series.

Lupini went under the knife in September last year for shoulder surgery and took a huge step towards reviving his career when he cruised to a five-shot victory in the IGT Challenge Tour’s Pecanwood Challenge in his first competitive start last May. He reeled in another victory in the Woodhill Challenge in August and a run of strong finishes has lifted him to sixth in the standings.

Van Dijk is well back, at 34th, and a victory would significantly boost his changes to crack the top 10, but he is perfectly happy to go through both stages of golf’s most gruelling test.

“I completed a Higher Certificate in Life Science through UNISA after matric and then I started a BSc degree in Genetics and Plants,” he said. “I’m in my second year, also through UNISA, so if I’m successful and I make it at Q-School, I intend to keep on studying. I like the balance it gives me in my life and I want to finish my degree. If I don’t make it, there is always next year.”

The leading pair have a one shot advantage over Bryce Myburgh and Kyle Lucas and will start the second round two shots ahead of Italian Philip Geerts and Hendrikus Stoop.

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