Coetzee surprises at Els club
Francois Coetzee (Gallo Images)
Pretoria - Francois Coetzee was the third-last player to make it into the Big Easy Tour Championship, yet by the close of round one at the Els Club, Copperleaf he signed for a commanding three-stroke lead.
“I was chuffed to make it here after I missed Big Easy Glendower, which was the final tournament before Tour Champs. I have to go for it this week - there’s nothing else you can do,” he said.
The 22-year-old receives coaching through the club, which was surely a help in windy conditions on Wednesday. Every player in the field brandished at least one drop on their card, yet Coetzee’s six birdies easily compensated for his lone bogey at the 14th.
“I played very well,” he said. “I hit the ball nicely and didn’t make many mistakes. And a few putts went in. You have to hit a lot of greens here - the greens are big and if you miss them it’s pretty tough to up-and-down.
“I’m a member here. I joined about a year ago and I’ve been receiving coaching here. I do have a bit of a home-ground advantage, because I know which pins can be tricky. You’ve got to go for some of them, but some of them you can’t. It’s all about working the wind, and sometimes you have to just take par and go,” he said.
Tyrone Ryan has recently been struggling with his form, but pieced together a solid 70 and held the clubhouse lead for much of the day. He was joined by Ross Wellington, whose game looked as hot as it did three weeks ago when he took sole second at the Wild Waves Challenge.
Teboho Sefatsa secured his share of second with a birdie at the 18th. He currently holds third on the Big Easy Tour Order of Merit and is a steady bet. Despite a late stumble, Beyers Smith managed to reach the clubhouse at two-under. He completed a four-way tie for second.
A further four players, including three-time Big Easy winner Riekus Nortje, finished on one-under and shared sixth. Order of Merit leader Jeff Inglis joined a four-way tie for 10th a further stroke off the pace.
Scores (RSA unless otherwise specified):
67 - Francois Coetzee
70 - Tyrone Ryan , Beyers Smith , Ross Wellington , Teboho Sefatsa
71 - Divan Gerber , Stuart Clark (WAL), Mark Williams , Riekus Nortje
72 - Thabang Simon , Drikus van der Walt , Daniel Hammond , Jeff Inglis (ENG)
73 - Thomas Lovett , Johan Bekker , Thabo Maseko , Andre van Zyl , Pieter Moolman
74 - Michael du Toit , Irvin Mazibuko
75 - Coenie Stoop , PG van Zyl , Graham van der Merwe , Wynand Dingle , Mikhail Tewary , Attie Schwartzel
76 - Michael Hollick , Coenie Bester
77 - Jared Harvey
79 - Martin du Toit