Paarl - Dawie van der Walt kept the South African flag flying high with a late charge in Thursday's SA Open first round at the Pearl Valley Golf Estates.
The Cape Town-born 26-year-old Van der Walt fired two eagles and three birdies for a seven-under-par 65 which landed him just one shot behind overnight leader Sweden's Martin Erlandsson, who earlier in the day laid down his marker at the top of the leader board with an eight-under-par 64.
And right at the end of Thursday's play, last week's Alfred Dunhill Championship winner, 23-year Spaniard Pablo Martin, joined Van der Walt on 65 after he signed off in great fashion with two birdies and an eagle over the final three holes.
There were potentially strong finishes but the challenges wilted towards the day's end at the 99th edition of the SA Open, the country's oldest professional golf championship, which is co-sanctioned by the European Tour, Sunshine Tour and South African Golf Association (Saga).
The local boy, Van der Walt, stays a stone's throw away from the course although he's never played in a championship at Pearl Valley which he said was playing "well" on Thursday.
Over the last three years Van der Walt has been based in Texas and has mostly been playing tournaments on mini-tours in the south of the US.
"The key today was my driving down the fairways and overall I was hitting the ball well," said Van der Walt.
"I know you can't win a tournament on the first day but not dropping a single shot made me feel pretty good.
"I was lucky that the wind did not spoil things for me and otherwise it made for cool conditions."
But the star of the day was Swede Erlandsson who carded an eagle and six birdies in a faultless round to scale the top of the leader board with a first-round 64.
"I was really happy with the way I started the back nine," said Erlandsson.
"Because of the great start I was able to play freely, but I also played it safe and all the time it helped to make me feel confident."
Both landed eagles at the 485-metre par-five fifth hole but Van der Walt went one better when he carded another at the 353m par-four 10th in dramatic fashion. He drove his tee shot into a bunker and miraculously sunk the ball using his sand wedge.
Martin said "good" driving helped him play an aggressive game.
"I really gave it my all because my driving was good," said Martin.
"This course is more forgiving (than the one used for the Alfred Dunhill) but the wind was tough at times and one needed to calm down. The greens were also faster here today."
The big let-downs in the opening round were the performances of the two previous SA Open winners in the field.
Last year's champion, Richard Sterne, battled his way around the course and undid the advantage of three birdies with two bogeys to end the day on one-under-par 72.
The 2007 winner, James Kingston, will start Friday's second round on even par after he messed up with a double bogey and two bogeys, although he managed four birdies to bring a measure of respectability to his first-round display.
Scores after the first round (RSA unless specified):
64 - Martin Erlandsson (SWE)
65 - Dawie Van der Walt, Pablo Martin (ESP)
66 - Anders Hansen (DEN)
67 - Richie Ramsay (SCO)
68 - Richard Finch (ENG), Edoardo Molinari (ITA), Michael Jonzon (SWE), Louis Oosthuizen, Michiel Bothma
69 - Ulrich van den Berg, Jacques Blaauw, Thomas Aiken, Damien McGrane (IRL), Adilson da Silva (BRA), Gregory Bourdy (FRA), Alan McLean (SCO), Alejandro Canizares (ESP), Dylan Frittelli (AMA)
70 - Carlos Rodiles (ESP), Louis Moolman, James Kamte, Soren Hansen (DEN), Michael Hoey (NIR), Peter Karmis, Jamie Elson (ENG), Doug McGuigan, Callum Macaulay (SCO)
71 - Fredrik Ohlsson (SWE), Sam Hutsby (ENG), Richard Sterne, Chris Williams, Shiv Kapur (IND), Robert Rock (ENG), Markus Brier (AUT), Keith Horne, Carl Suneson (ESP), Tyrone Ferreira, Kenneth Ferrie (ENG), Fredrik Andersson Hed (SWE), Richard McEvoy (ENG), Dion Fourie
72 - Oliver Bekker, Andre Cruse, Grant Muller, Gavan Levenson, Ariel Canete (ARG), James Kingston, Jbe' Kruger, Phillip Price (WAL), Chris Swanepoel, Scott Dunlap (USA), Bennie van der Merwe, James Morrison (ENG), Branden Grace, Lindani Ndwandwe, Garth Mulroy, Jean Hugo, Stuart Clark (WAL)
73 - Richard Bland (ENG), TC Charamba (ZIM), Ryan Dreyer (AMA), Rhys Davies (WAL), John Bickerton (ENG), Des Terblanche, Titch Moore, Paul Waring (ENG), Robert Coles (ENG), Peter Whiteford(SCO), Simon Khan (ENG), Darren Fichardt, Steve Basson, Marc Cayeux (ZIM), Joost Luiten (NED), Jake Roos, Josh Cunliffe, Julien Guerrier (FRA)
74 - Mark Murless, Sam Little (ENG), Brandon Pieters, Mikael Lundberg(SWE), Marco Ruiz (PAR), Andrew Coltart (SCO), Desvonde Botes, Hendrik Buhrmann, Thomas Bjorn (DEN), Oskar Henningsson (SWE), Bradford Vaughan, George Coetzee, Neil Schietekat, JG Claassen (AMA)
75 - Gary Murphy (IRL), Deane Pappas, Eirik Tage Johansen (NOR), Trevor Fisher Jnr, Oliver Fisher (ENG), Adrian Ford (AMA), Justin Walters (ENG), Gary Clark (ENG), Gareth Maybin (NIR), Nic Henning, Anton Haig, David Dixon (ENG), David Drysdale (SCO), Thabang Simon
76 - Jaco Ahlers, Barry Lane (ENG), Jaco Van Zyl, John Parry (ENG), Albert Pistorius, Jarmo Sandelin (SWE), Christian Ries, Ignacio Garrido (ESP), Mark F Haastrup (DEN), Christiaan Basson, Tyrone van Aswegen, Charl Coetzee, Keenan Davidse, Julien Quesne (FRA), Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR), Dean Lambert, Pelle Edberg (SWE)
77 - Peter Baker (ENG), Ross McGowan (ENG), Trevor Dodds (NAM), Reggie Adams, Clinton Whitelaw, Charl Schwartzel, Andrew Butterfield (ENG), Mikko Ilonen (FIN), Gary Boyd (ENG), David Hewan, Wayne Westner, Steven Jeppesen (SWE)
78 - Shaun Norris, Andrew Curlewis, Eugen Marugi, Shane Lowry (IRL)
79 - Prinavin Nelson, Divan van den Heever, Alan Michell, Irvin Mazibuko, Neil Cheetham (ENG), Rafael Cabrera Bello (ESP), Gary Lockerbie (ENG), Ryan Cairns (ZIM)
80 - Warren Abery
81 - Leon Knoll (AMA), Tyrone Mordt, Derick Petersen
82 - Merrick Bremner, Andrew Tampion (AUS), Alex Haindl
83 - Heinrich Bruiners
84 - Omar Sandys
RTD - Hennie Otto