24th July 2015 | Big Easy IGT Golf

Free State’s Viljoen fires at Sishen Open

Sishen23-25JulDay1 (201)(PHOTO – MJ Viljoen; credit CJ du Plooy)

KATHU, 23 July 2015 – Free State golfer MJ Viljoen opened his bid for a maiden IGT Tour title with a  flawless seven-under-par 65, while 11-year-old local star Lyle Pedro stole the march on the field in the first round of the Betterball Pro-Am Team Competition at the Sishen Open on Thursday.

Viljoen set a furious pace at Sishen Golf Club with seven birdies on the opening day.

The 20-year-old Sunshine Tour rookie has a three shot lead over Drikus van der Walt, Divan Gerber, amateurs Hilton Hughes and Bertie Steenkamp and Sunshine Tour veteran Doug McGuigan.

Russel Franz, Hennie du Plessis and Zak van Zyl finished a further stroke adrift, while local hero Theunis Spangenberg is joint 10th with Duan Keun, Breyten Meyer and amateur Keegan Steyn.

Viljoen was pleased to get the rust off with a solid opening round now that the Sunshine Tour is nearing the end of a nine-week winter hiatus.

“A lot of Sunshine Tour pros are playing here this week to get the rust off,” said the Bloemfontein golfer. “With the strength of the field, I knew I needed a solid opening round. You never really know what to expect after a long break, but it went pretty well.”

Viljoen collected four birdies on the outward nine and reeled in three more at 11, 12 and 15.

“You have to hit the ball straight around this layout, because you can easily put yourself into trouble. I am striking the ball really well, which really helps at this course.

“I boxed a couple of long putts for birdie and I had a great chip in for birdie at 12. My one goal was to birdie all four of the par fives, which I pulled off.”

Property and micro financing entrepreneur Steenkamp was equally pleased to be in the mix.

“I drove 200 kilometers to play, so you bet I’m happy to be with the frontrunners,” said the plus-two handicapper from Upington.

“We don’t get a lot of opportunities like this and I love to test myself against top professionals. It really gets that fighting spirit going, so it’s definitely worth the drive.”

Steenkamp reeled in five birdies, but spoiled a blemish-free round with a bogey at par three 13.

“I hit my tee shot left into the trees on the left,” he said. “All I could do was to chip to the green and I two-putted from there. The rest of the round went really well. I managed to keep the mistakes to a minimum and keep pace with the pros.”

Hughes from Polokwane pulled his tee shot at 16, resulting in the only mistake on his card.

“They had a spell of rain in the region, so the fairways are not as rock hard as they would usually be around this time of year,” the 24-year-old Limpopo player said.

“The greens are superb and rolling really well. I am striking the ball really well and if I can keep the bogeys off my card, I can be in with a shout.”

Pedro, who plays off a 12 handicap, offset a bogey at nine and double bogey at 18 with birdies at six and 15 for a 73.

His playing partner, Sunshine Tour professional Tyron Roelofsz, carded a 77.

The duo combined for 48 points to share the lead with Du Plessis and Ruan Hattingh, as well as Franz and Nico van der Westhuizen.

“The format is scrambled drive and that was pretty cool, because Tyron drives it very, very long. It was great playing with him, because I learned a lot from him, especially about the rules of golf.”

Meanwhile Gerber and Steyn have their eye on the big prize, a winner’s cheque worth R35,000, but the pair enjoyed an early pay-out on day one.

Both players won a R1000 after Gerber went five under on the front nine and Steyn dipped four shots below par on the homeward stretch.

FIRST ROUND SCORES

65 – MJ Viljoen

68 – Drikus Van der Walt, Divan Gerber, Bertie Steenkamp (AMA), Hilton Hughes (AMA), Doug McGuigan

69 – Russel Franz, Zak Van Zyl, Hennie Du Plessis

70 – Duane Keun, Theunis Spangenberg, Keegan Steyn (AMA), Breyten Meyer

71 – CJ du Plessis, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Lean Boezaart, Bryandrew Roelofsz, Greg Bentley (ZIM)

72 – Andrew McLardy, Amerigo Renieri (AMA), Corne Viljoen

73 – Olebogeng Moikwatlhai (AMA), Matthew Vogel, Johan Van Der Wath, Jaco Mouton, Stuart Smith BOT, Desvonde Botes, Ockert Strydom

74 – Brendan Britten NAM, Jacques de Villiers, Andrew Light, Hano van der Walt, Divan Van Den Heever, Brendan Coetzer (AMA), Simon Kruger

75 – Christiaan Pretorius, NJ Arnoldi, Romano Saincic, Pieter Kruger, Makhetha Mazibuko, Ben Fouchee

76 – Niel Du Preez (AMA), Buta Nasie (AMA), Hermus Venter (AMA), Ruan Huysamen NAM, Herman Minnie, Wayne Stroebel, Leon Van Jaarsveld (AMA), Glen de Waal (NAM), Johann Mostert, Joubert Van Eeden (AMA), Daniel Slabbert (AMA), Ryan Cairns ZIM

77 – Lydon Charnely (AMA), TJ Bekker, Louis Calitz, Quintin Crause (AMA), Dwayne Coetzee, Tumelo Wesi (AMA), Tyron Roelofsz

78 – Juran Dreyer (AMA), Henning de Jager (AMA), Andrew Carlsson (AMA), Mikhail Tewary

80 – Wicus Bezuidenhout (AMA), Maxime Deffontaine (AMA) BEL, Burger Heckroodt

81 – Michael Jooste (AMA), Norman Beggs

82 – John Hanekom (AMA), Francois Mouton (AMA)

85 – Shalan Govender

86 – Andrew Seme (AMA)

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