Amateur Nikhil Gopal carded a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 to lead by a single stroke on the first day of the IGT Chase #6 at Services Golf Club in Benoni on Monday.
In his third start on the IG Tour, Gopal wasted no time in getting to business, birdieing his second hole after the par he opened with. Two more pars followed, as he steadied his round and immediately after that, he made two birdies – on the par-four fifth and the sixth hole which plays as a par-three – on the trot to get it to three-under 33 on the front nine.
“It was quite fun out there, said an elated Gopal, “it’s always nice to get out there and play some solid golf while having a bit of fun. I felt very comfortable on the course and I was quite dialled in with my distances. It took me two or three holes to get my speed right around the greens but once I got comfortable, I could play. The course was not playing too tough and the greens are small and there are opportunities out there.”
A par at the turn was followed by a birdie on the par-three 11th, and while Gopal failed to capitalise on a birdie opportunity on the par-five 12th – owing to a poor bunker shot – he recovered swiftly on the next hole, making a birdie on 13. Back-to-back birdies on the 17thh and 18th holes sealed a perfect opening round for Gopal.
“I putted very well today,” Gopal noted after his round, “but I thought the course was playing quite simple and that’s why a lot of players are deep under-par. It was nice to get off to a good start like this, though, because this is only my third IGT event. But my putting was so good today. I hit my wedges pretty good as well today; at the flag and high.”
He will not rest on his laurels, however, because the many players ‘deep under-par’ he speaks of are only a shot behind him, and those are amateurs Warwick Purchase, Christiaan Maas and the number one amateur in the country, Casey Jarvis, all of whom share second on six-under.
Dylan Kok shares fifth with yet another amateur, Werner Deyzel, after they both signed for 67s while Ryan Van Velzen and Gregg Gilson share the seventh spot at three-under-par.
By Matthews Mfubu