Kempton Park - It was a bogey-free day for Neil Schietekat as he carded five-under-par 67 on Thursday to take the first-round lead in the Sunshine Tour's Tour Championship being played at Serengeti Estates.
He started with three birdies in his first six holes, and then waited patiently until the 16th and 17th for his next two, as he took a one-stroke lead over Darren Fichardt and Dean Burmester. Jbe' Kruger and Justin Harding were one shot back on three-under.
"I played the patience game out there," said Schietekat. "I made a couple of putts early on and I hit it really close for about five or six holes for no reward. But I just kept knocking and the putts are eventually going to fall. I made a nice 25-footer on 16 and I made another 15-footer on 17 to make a half-decent round into a great round."
It was a good start for Schietekat in a field which features 14 Sunshine Tour winners from the 2017/18 season.
The R1.5-million tournament closes off the Sunshine Tour season, and 42 of the 50 leading players on the Order of Merit are playing in the event.
Unlike Schietekat, Fichardt and Burmester had to fight off the effects of dropped shots on their cards.
Fichardt made a triple-bogey on the par-four sixth, and dropped another shot on the 14th, but he made up for those errors with eight birdies.
Burmester had to battle effects of a stomach bug which gave him very little sleep the night before, and he made three bogeys on his way around Serengeti. But a run of four consecutive birdies around the turn - from 18 to the third after he started on 10 - kept his head above water and him in contention.
Schietekat rode the memories of a near miss on the course, when he came second to Kruger last August.
"I really like this place," he said. "I just feel like I can play my game. The greens are quick. We're putting on quick greens again. We've been putting on some slow stuff for the last four weeks, and I'm comfortable on fast greens."
For all his comfort, he's acutely aware of the threats Serengeti poses.
"If you try and get ahead of yourself around here, you're going to get hurt," he said.
"If you hit it in the wrong places on the greens and try and go for them, you're also going to get hurt. It takes a lot of patience around here and you've just got to wait for those birdies to arrive."
As the player with the only bogey-free round of the day, he's clearly on to something.
67 - Neil Schietekat
68 - Darren Fichardt, Dean Burmester
69 - Jbe' Kruger, Justin Harding
70 - Rourke van der Spuy, Oliver Bekker
71 - JJ Senekal, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Colin Nel, Doug McGuigan, JC Ritchie, Jared Harvey, Riekus Nortje, MJ Viljoen
72 - Breyten Meyer, Adilson Da Silva, Tyrone Ferreira, Rhys Enoch, Peter Karmis, Ulrich van den Berg, Alex Haindl, Justin Walters, Jean-Paul Strydom
73 - Anthony Michael, Hennie du Plessis, Zack Byrd, Hennie Otto, Jean Hugo
74 - Louis de Jager, Keith Horne
75 - Jaco Prinsloo, Mark Williams
76 - Vaughn Groenewald, Jake Roos, Keenan Davidse, Daniel van Tonder, Daniel Greene
77 - Ockie Strydom
78 - Tyrone Ryan
79 - Neil O'Briain
82 - Lyle Rowe