Nortje and Redman start well in Benoni

Riekus Nortje

Divan Gerber will hunt a second career victory after he shot a Thursday 65 to take a share of the first-round lead at the Sunshine Big Easy Tour’s Benoni event, presented by Stonehage.

“I’m feeling good. I don’t think anyone has won twice on this Tour, and that’s my main goal. I want to do that this year, so we’ll have to see what happens this week” he said.

The 23-year-old leapt into the lead with an eagle at the first at Benoni Country Club and never looked back. He reached the clubhouse at seven-under-par and joined Greg Petzer atop the leaderboard.

“On the first hole I hit driver and then three-iron and hit it off the green,” said Gerber. “I managed to hole a 30-foot putt for eagle and that started things. I went on from there and made a few good shots, good putts for a good round.”

The Bethlehem Golf Club professional tore up the front nine in 30 strokes and avoided bogeys on his first loop in spite of the windy and cold conditions. He looked set for the outright lead until late bogeys disrupted what was an otherwise immaculate round.

“After starting like that you have a choice. On one side you don’t want to mess up and on the other you want to go low. I managed birdie on 10, 12 and 14, but a few lipped out at the end. Then to finished drop, drop is not so good, but it keeps you on your toes,” he said.

Petzer found the form he has been looking for and shot 65 to claim his share of the first-round lead of the sixth installment of the 2012 Big Easy Tour season.

“I’ve been playing alright recently,” he said. “I’m very happy, because I’ve been battling, not making too many cuts, so it’s nice to get a good score on the board. I want to do the same again in the morning, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.”

He has been grinding through the year, and mentioned how beneficial it is for golfers such as himself to be able to play on the Tour.

“I’m a rookie and it’s my first year on Tour, so it’s nice to get a good score. I’m battling a little bit, because I have to pre-qualify for everything and through the winter it’s not easy to get into the events. That’s where these Big Easy events are great, because they give us a chance to play and time to work on our game,” he said.

The Sunshine Big Easy Tour has given out 40 invites, spread over the course of the season, to up-and-coming amateurs from around the country. This week Victor Lange, ranked in the top 10 amateurs in South Africa, took full advantage of his invite and shot four-under-par 68. He will head into the final round in fourth position, a great opportunity for an amateur.

“I played very well and didn’t have a drop today, which was good. I’m happy with my start. It was very exciting and fun to play my first professional event, and it was nice to play well,” he said.

Riekus Nortje won at ERPM Golf Club two weeks ago and is on a hot streak at the moment. On Thursday he shot 67, which secured his spot in the final three-ball on Friday.

“I have a lot more confidence on the golf course. I know I can play different shots under pressure. I’m definitely going to take it on. You just try to hit every shot the best way possible – it’s about making the right decisions,” he said.

SCORES (RSA unless otherwise specified):

65 – Greg Petzer , Divan Gerber

67 – Riekus Nortje

68 – Victor Lange (AMA) , Irvin Mazibuko , Mikhail Tewary

69 – Francois Coetzee , Juan Langeveld , Louis Calitz

70 – Drikus van der Walt , Jared Harvey , Teboho Sefatsa

71 – Davison Elijah (ZIM), Dayne Moore (ZAM), Thabang Simon , Mark Williams , Jake Redman , Daniel Hammond , Albert Tsai

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