GOLF NEWS - Albert Venter raced home to catch the third day of the Test between South Africa and India, but unfortunately for the Pretoria rookie, the Proteas and the afternoon field in the IGT Challenge Tour’s 12th Race to Q-School event, Mother Nature had her own ideas.
Venter set the clubhouse target at eight-under-par 64 before play rained out at Centurion Country Club.
He holds a one-one shot over Pieter Moolman and Erik Park from Korea and he leads by two Italy’s Philip Geerts. However, he might have a delayed start to his second round as the stragglers return to finish up on Tuesday morning
“It was a bit of a let-down after finishing my round on a high to discover the cricket had washed out,” said Venter. “I’m not sure how many guys are still out there, but either way, I have an afternoon start, so I’ll miss the action at SuperSport Park tomorrow.”
As much as he loves cricket, golf has to take priority, because Venter has some high-lofted goals in the next two months.
The 20-year-old former GolfRSA National Squad player turned pro last September. He competed on the IGT Challenge and Big Easy Tours and, in December, he won the First and Second Stages of the Alps Tour, a development circuit that feeds the European and European Challenge Tours.
This has left him in a bit of a quandary.
“I’m going to the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School in March, but I also have to play events on the Alps Tour to keep my card,” he said. “The top 10 players on the IGT Challenge Tour’s Race to Q-School Order of Merit are exempt for Final Stage, so my first goal is to make that top 10.
“I’m 27th in the ranking, so I need a couple of big finishes. I leave for Europe on February 9, which means I need to win this week and probably two more before I leave for Europe. It’s a lot of pressure, but I started well enough to give myself a chance.”
He certainly has the pedigree to do it.
In 2015, a course record nine-under-par 63 in the final round at Port Elizabeth Golf Club won him the Eastern Province Stroke Play. Another nine-under 63 at Clovelly saw him lift the Western Province Amateur title in 2016. That same year, he fired two superb 65s at the Leopard Creek Golf Estate to win the inaugural African Amateur Stroke Play by five shots.
Going around Centurion in 64 blows was a welcome confidence booster for the rookie.
“I drove the fairway at the first, hit a six-iron in and two-putted and hit 3-wood, 6-iron from 165 metres to six foot at the second and holed the putt,” he said.
“The two early birdies set me up nicely for the day, although I did bogey the third. I came over my 8-iron and finished in the bunker. It was a tough shot with the pin in the front left. I hit 10 feet past, but I missed the return.”
Venter birdied five and eight and he hit the front with a trio of birdies after the turn.
“I hit it to eight foot and holed the birdie putt at 10, made a 20-footer at 11 for birdie and hit a good drive down the fairway at the par five,” he said. “I had 220 metres in and hit a 2-iron to 15 feet, but I missed the eagle chance. I birdied 15 and 18, but I left a few out there.
“I drove the ball nice and I hit a lot of greens. If I can get the putter going on Tuesday, I can give myself a very good chance in Wednesday’s final round.”
Irvin Mazibuko finished in a six-way tie at five under. Fhile fellow Gary Player Class of 2017 member Makhetha Mazibuko sits at four under in a group of five and Heinrich Bruiners is a further shot back.
First Round Scores (Completed top 20)
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA:
64 Albert Venter
65 Pieter Moolman; Eric Park KOR
66 Philip Geerts ITA
67 Maritz Wessels; Aubrey Beckley; Theunis Bezuidenhout AMA; Duane Keun; Irvin Mazibuko; Arno Pretorius AMA
68 Jade Buitendag; Paul Boshoff; Makhetha Mazibuko; Zabastian de Jager; Phillip Kruse AMA
69 Marthin Scheepers; Tristen Strydom; Heinrich Bruiners; Andrew Carlsson; Sean Bradley; Eric Nel AMA; Tumelo Molloyi; Armand van Dyk AMA
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the IGT Challenge Tour.