JOHANNESBURG - Darren Fichardt opened with a seven-under-par 65 to lead the first round of the Eye of Africa PGA Championship, but for the second week in succession on the Sunshine Tour a member of the Tour’s Gary Player Class is pushing for a victory just one shot behind him.
Thanda Mavundla signed for a six-under-par 66 at the Eye of Africa Signature Golf Estate on Thursday to place him in a group of players just one shot behind Fichardt.
Last week, another Gary Player Class member in Toto Thimba Jnr. came through the first round of the South African Open hosted by the City of Joburg just two shots off the lead, but was unable to maintain his challenge.
The Gary Player Class is the Sunshine Tour’s squad of players who have been identified for assistance with their professional careers.
Mavundla’s achievement was made even more special considering he wasn’t even going to play this week.
“I stay in Durban so I wasn’t going to play this week because I don’t have a sponsor and it was going to cost a lot. Then a good friend of mine said he would assist me,” said Mavundla.
“I’ve been working hard on my game and it felt good to shoot a low round like this. I didn’t miss any fairways which is key on this golf course. Your short game also needs to be sharp around here.”
Fichardt was delighted with his opening 65 to lead South African golf’s second oldest professional tournament, after the South African Open hosted by the City of Joburg. And he’s hoping for better fortunes in this event than what he’s enjoyed in the SA Open.
“It was disappointing to miss the cut in the SA Open last week. That’s the third year in a row that I’ve missed the cut in that event, so to come out here and shoot seven under and be up there again was nice,” he said.
“I shot five under in the pro-am earlier this week so my game is pretty solid. I felt I could’ve hit a few iron shots closer, but my game is solid, which it has been for some time now. It’s just a case of getting the job done.”
Rookie professional Garrick Higgo and another rising star in Thriston Lawrence are also amongst the chasing pack just one shot behind Fichardt.
Trevor Fisher Jnr., who lost in a playoff for this title with Louis de Jager last year, made another strong start with an opening round of five under 67.
Scores from the first round of the Eye of Africa PGA Championship on the par-72 Eye of Africa Signature Golf Estate course on Thursday:
65 - Darren Fichardt
66 - Thanda Mavundla, Philip Eriksson, Garrick Higgo, Thriston Lawrence
67 - Combrinck Smit, Callum Mowat, Daniel van Tonder, Gavin Moynihan, Jacques Kruyswijk, Chris Swanepoel, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Tyrone Ferreira, Francois van Vuuren
68 - Ruan Korb, Hennie O'Kennedy, Martin Rohwer, Toto Thimba, Teboho Sefatsa, Stefan Wears-Taylor, Bryce Easton, Paul Boshoff, Erhard Lambrechts
69 - Andre De Decker, Titch Moore, Oliver Bekker, Rourke van der Spuy, Jean Hugo, Louis de Jager, David McIntyre, DK Kim, Irvin Mazibuko, Jade Buitendag, Ulrich van den Berg, Jake Redman, Estiaan Conradie, Jacques Blaauw, Merrick Bremner, Ruan de Smidt
70 - Wallie Coetsee, MJ Viljoen, Jean-Paul Strydom, Hennie Otto, Ockie Strydom, JC Ritchie, Jake Roos, Ruan Conradie, Vaughn Groenewald, Dylan Naidoo, Dylan Kok, Toby Tree, Kyle Barker, Jaco Van Zyl, Matias Calderon, Ryan Cairns, Derick Petersen, Louis Albertse, Mark Williams, Benjamin Follett-Smith, Arno Pretorius, Victor Lange
71 - Daniel Greene, Aubrey Beckley, Andre Nel, Juran Dreyer, Keelan van Wyk, Steve Surry, Jaco Ahlers, Wilco Nienaber, Luke Jerling, Andrew McLardy, Hendrikus Stoop, Andrew van der Knaap, Alex Haindl, Peter Karmis, Fredrik From, Hayden Griffiths, Dane Vosloo
72 - Lwazi Gqira, Marc Cayeux, Garth Mulroy, Lyle Rowe, Hennie du Plessis, Michael Palmer, Allister de Kock, Keelan Africa, Kenneth Dube, Heinrich Bruiners, James Allan, CJ du Plessis, James Kingston, Michael Hollick, Ryan Tipping, Anton Haig, Divan van den Heever
73 - Roberto Lupini, Anthony Michael, Doug McGuigan, Neil Schietekat, Clinton Grobler, Bennie van der Merwe, Adriel Poonan, Rhys Enoch, Nicholaus Frade, Philip Geerts, Madalitso Muthiya, Keenan Davidse, Tristen Strydom, Christopher Van der Merwe
74 - Stephen Ferreira, Herman Loubser, Rupert Kaminski, Teaghan Gauche, Jared Harvey, Jacques P de Villiers, Christiaan Basson, Wynand Dingle, Makhetha Mazibuko, Greg Jacobs, Jannie Botha, Terry Smith, Ruan Botha
75 - Yubin Jung, Gerrit Foster, Ruan Huysamen, Theunis Bezuidenhout, Chris Cannon, Jaco Prinsloo, James Hart du Preez, James Pennington, Christo Roos, Riekus Nortje, Deon Germishuys
76 - Ivano Ficalbi, Dylan Mostert, Duane Keun, Darin de Smidt, Peetie van der Merwe, Ross Mcgowan, Michael du Toit
77 - Matt Bright, Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Fritz Orren, Matthew Rushton