KITWE – Seven birdies saw Jacques Blaauw to a share of the first-round lead in the Mopani Redpath Green Door Zambia Open at Nkana Golf Club on Thursday.

On a day when scoring was at a premium, he also made four bogeys on his way to his three-under 69 which saw him jointly atop the leaderboard with Stephen Ferreira of Portugal, with only nine other players in the 145-man field breaking par.

“This golf course is a beast. It’s not that long but, man, you have to hit the fairways,” said Blaauw. “I got a couple out there where I just had to chip out. So I’m very happy with my round.”

He started his round on the 10th, and immediately made a bogey. He got the shot back with a birdie on the 11th, but two more drops on 14 and 15 were worrying. But he made two birdies ahead of the turn to get on the front nine at level par. It was there that he did his scoring, with four birdies and just a single drop on the tough 418-metre par-four eighth.

“I hit some good shots in the round and I made some putts, and while I was playing around here yesterday, it didn’t feel like I could make any,” he said. “But in the morning, the greens were running okay. They’re slowish, but we’ll see what happens with the afternoon field.”

In the afternoon, only Ferreira was able to match him with a card that had just one bogey on it – by far the best performance of the day. “I was kind of lucky to only have one,” he laughed. “My short game was pretty much on fire. I made up-and-down a lot and holed some good putts – I just had good fun out there.”

It wasn’t that much fun for Blaauw. “With the bogeys, I was just off the fairways a couple of times, and I didn’t chip too well around the greens,” he said.

“The key to the course is to realise you don’t have to hit the ball far. It’s literally about keeping it in play and rather come in with a six-iron than a wedge. The greens are very small, so if you’re on the green you’ve got a good look at a birdie putt.

“The course is definitely getting tougher over the years. The last time I was here was 2015. They’ve done an unbelievable job here. While you’re playing, you feel like you’re on a championship golf course,” he added.

JC Ritchie was just a shot back of the leaders, while eight players, including defending champion Rourke van der Spuy, were grouped on one-under-par in a share of fourth.

With the course obviously playing so tough, don’t expect a low winning score. “I think anything at double-figures under par could win this,” said Blaauw. “I’ll be very happy if I get there.”

69 - Jacques Blaauw, Stephen Ferreira
70 - JC Ritchie
71 - Benjamin Follett-Smith, Juran Dreyer, Chris Cannon, Thriston Lawrence, Rourke van der Spuy, Neil Schietekat, Rhys Enoch, Kyle Pilgrim
72 - Hayden Griffiths, Fredrik From, Jaco Prinsloo, Daniel van Tonder, Teaghan Gauche
73 - Andrew van der Knaap, Jacques P de Villiers, Christiaan Basson, Merrick Bremner, Jaco Ahlers, JJ Senekal, Callum Mowat, Steve Surry, Michael Palmer, Pieter Moolman, Lyle Rowe, Rhys West, Kyle Barker, Jade Buitendag, Dylan Mostert
74 - Anthony Michael, James Allan, Garrick Higgo, Hennie Otto, Colin Nel, Doug McGuigan, Michael Hollick, Ryan Cairns, Derick Petersen
75 - Combrinck Smit, Riekus Nortje, Mwalikwa Sondashi, Dylan Naidoo, Wynand Dingle, Daniel Greene, CJ du Plessis, Keenan Davidse, MJ Viljoen
76 - Matthew Rushton, Luke Mayo, Toto Thimba, Jared Harvey, Kelvin Chibuye, Andrew Odoh, Ruan de Smidt, Wallie Coetsee
77 - Christopher Van der Merwe, Luke Jerling, Madalitso Muthiya, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Philip Eriksson, Ross McGowan, Altaaf Bux, Luke Brown, Stefan Wears-Taylor, Aaron Simfukwe Jnr, Philip Geerts, Makhetha Mazibuko, Dayne Moore, Duane Keun, Tyrone Ryan, Jonathan Agren, Jacquin Hess, Thanda Mavundla
78 - DK Kim, Hendrikus Stoop, Dylan Kok, Rupert Kaminski, Matt Bright, Vaughn Groenewald, Ruan Conradie, Teboho Sefatsa, Jason Froneman, Erhard Lambrechts, Ruan Huysamen, Bradley Diggeden, Deon Germishuys, Scott Campbell, Luke Joy, Herman Loubser, Ockie Strydom, Andre Nel, Clinton Grobler
79 - Gabriel Chibale, Heinrich Bruiners, Breyten Meyer, Estiaan Conradie, Sipho Bujela, Denmark Mulambo, Darin de Smidt, Ruan Korb, Titch Moore, Phillip Kasozi
80 - Cameron Moralee, Theunis Bezuidenhout, Jake Roos, Jean Hugo, Jake Redman, Damon Stephenson
81 - Tristen Strydom, Paul Chidale, Kyle McClatchie, Franklin Manchest, Meshack Zwane
82 - Louis Albertse, Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Kelly Tembo, Morton Muwowo, Ryan O'Neill, Sydney Wemba, Chris Swanepoel
83 - Basil Wright, Aubrey Beckley, Bennie van der Merwe, Sean Bradley
84 - Patrick Mwendapole Snr, Martin Rohwer, Bwembwa Chanda
85 - Robson Chinhoi, Wayne Stroebel, Dominic Musonda, Jason Diab
86 - Paul Boshoff, Kelvin Bwalya, Beza Daka
87 - Raphael Phiri, Arno Pretorius
88 - Mukuka Mwango Jnr
89 - Matengele Kaira, Humphrey Chisanga
90 - Aaron Simfukwe Snr
91 - Mohambo Zulu, Bruce Chanda, Stalion Daka  

African News Agency (ANA)