Tshwane pro Jacques Kruyswijk and English amateur David Ashley teed up in the eighth Race to Q-School event at Irene Country Club for very different reasons, but the two IGT Tour winners were quite happy to share pole position at the 36-hole stage of the penultimate event, presented by GFG Academy, on Thursday.
For both players, this week’s performance is all about building confidence and a one stroke lead has delivered in spades.
Kruyswijk, who will be targeting a successful debut in the Australian PGA Championship next week, blistered the course in 64 strokes to set the early mark at seven-under-par 129.
Ashley, looking to convert a profitable IGT Tour season into a Sunshine Tour card at the upcoming Qualifying School in December, claimed a share of pole position in the windy afternoon conditions with an equally impressive 67.
First-round pacesetter Breyten Meyer slipped to third with a 71 alongside Pieter Kruger and reigning Nomads SA Boys Under-19 Match Play champion Ross Sinclair, who carded respective rounds of 69 and 67.
Earlier this season, Kruyswijk reeled in two victories to take his IGT Tour tally to seven.
He carried that form to a tie for second in the Vodacom Origins at Vaal de Grace and collected two more top 20 finishes on the Origins Series to break into the top 60 on the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit.
However, after missing the cut at last week’s Lion of Africa Cape Town Open and failing to qualify for the Dunhill Championship on Tuesday, the 22-year-old Centurion golfer was in desperate need of a boost.
“I really wanted to get into Leopard Creek to build up some confidence for Australia, but I didn’t perform,” Kruyswijk said.
“I didn’t want to arrive at the RAVC Royal Pines in that state of mind, so I entered for the Race to Q-School straightaway. It always gets me into a positive frame of mind.”
Kruyswijk opened with back-to-back birdies and a chip-in for birdie at the third set the tone for his round.
“I picked up six more birdies, because I set myself up really well off the tee and my irons were spot-on,” he said. “I didn’t have a putt longer than six feet; even the three-putt bogey at 13 was close.
“As a past winner and a graduate of the Tour, I know I should be beating the youngsters and the amateurs. It fires me up to focus better and to raise my game. I shot 73 in the first round because I was still miffed about missing the qualifier. Today I came out positive and ready to fire.”
Ashley, meanwhile, mixed seven birdies with two bogeys.
The 22-year-old Centurion Country Club golfer broke through for his maiden IGT Tour win at the Summer Swing at ERPM Golf Club in February and rose to 28th in the IGT Tour Money Leaders list with a succession of top 20 finishes.
If he can close out a solid performance this week and keep the standard there in the final Race to Q-School, Ashley could very well follow fellow GFG Academy players Hennie du Plessis and Russel Franz to the Sunshine Tour next year.