Strydom leads at De Zalze
Ockie Strydom (Gallo Images)
Stellenbosch - Inspiration is not hard to find on a perfect day in the Cape Winelands and on a golf course at the foot of the majestic Jonkershoek mountains.
Ockie Strydom was certainly inspired on the opening day of the Vodacom Origins of Golf at De Zalze Golf Club on Wednesday.
“I told my caddie today was going to be a good day,” said Strydom, who produced a front nine of 29 on his way to an opening eight-under-par 64 and a one-stroke clubhouse lead in this Sunshine Tour event. The round had to be suspended because of darkness and will be completed on Thursday morning.
But Strydom made it into the clubhouse shortly before the siren sounded. “I hit everything close on that front nine. It was a nice ice breaker,” he said of a round that marked his first 29 in a tournament.
He leads by one over Allan Versfeld, who also took advantage of the more forgiving front nine with a 31 and who was also inspired
by the setting of this event.
“It’s an awesome setting. You get these great views of the mountains from the course.”
But the reality is that they’ll both have to focus more on the leaderboard than the views, with the experience of Darren Fichardt and Jean Hugo on six under.
Hugo is a particular threat. He may well have made a career decision to move up to Pretoria, but it’s clear that his heart still lies in his childhood home of Stellenbosch, and where he won this tournament two years ago.
“I haven’t played this course often, but it’s obviously nice to be back in Stellenbosch. The greens here are great so you can put a good score up there.”
There was also inspiration in the game of Jbe' Kruger. He opened with a four-under 68, and is still feeding off the memories of his practice round with John Daly at last week’s Open Championship.
“He drinks a lot of Diet Coke during a round,” Kruger said of that experience. “He has this big travel mug that he just keeps filling with Diet Coke. But he’s a cool guy. We spoke a lot about his career. He obviously has a lot of experience, and he told me things like never to change my swing, not to listen too much to coaches, and basically to stick to what I know.”
For many of the Sunshine Tour professionals who qualified for last week’s Open, the true value was securing a practice round with some of the game’s stars and trying to learn from them.
Andrew Georgiou definitely made the most of that experience, squeezing in practice rounds with Vijay Singh, Rory McIlroy and Ernie Els.
Grant Veenstra decided there was no one better to learn links golf from than five-time Open champion Tom Watson.
“It was an awesome experience playing with him. He gave me some great tips about playing links golf,” said Veenstra, who on Wednesday went in search of inspiration on the driving range following his four-over-par 76.
He seemed to find it with the help of European Tour campaigner Richard Sterne, who popped in during a week off to give Veenstra a few swing tips.Incomplete scores (RSA unless specified):
-8 - Ockie Strydom
-7 - Allan Versfeld
-6 - Jean Hugo, Darren Fichardt
-5 - Francois Haughton, Jaco Ahlers, Christiaan Basson, Keith Horne, Bryce Easton
-4 - Jbe' Kruger
-3 - Ruan de Smidt, Louis de Jager, Shaun Norris, Dean Burmester , Chris Erasmus 
-2 - Des Terblanche, Mark Fensham, Jake Redman
-1 - Stuart Clark (WAL), Neil Schietekat, Mark Williams, Colin Nel, Riekus Nortje, Ryan Thompson, Matthew Carvell, Bradford Vaughan, Johan du Buisson, Keenan Davidse, Omar Sandys , Louis Calitz 
Par - Charl Coetzee, Jacques Blaauw, Doug McGuigan, Lindani Ndwandwe, Desvonde Botes, Ryan Tipping, Jaco Van Zyl, Andre Cruse, Attie Schwartzel
+1 - Justin Harding, PH McIntyre, Alan Michell, Albert Pistorius, David Hewan, Titch Moore, Chris Swanepoel
+2 - Andrew Curlewis, Theunis Spangenberg, Ulrich van den Berg, Hendrik Buhrmann, Prinavin Nelson, Divan van den Heever, James Kamte, Steven Ferreira
+3 - Wynand Dingle, Morne Buys, Jake Roos, Derik Ferreira, JG Claassen
+4 - Grant Veenstra, Jared Harvey, Merrick Bremner
+5 - Bennie van der Merwe, Louis Moolman, Ryan Strauss, Stuart Smith (BOT), Wallie Coetsee, Vaughn Groenewald, Grant Muller
+6 - Francois Coetzee
+8 - Thabang Simon
+11 - Steven van Heerden