Bekker opens with 67 to lead in Czech Republic

Oliver Bekker carded a five-under-par 67 on Thursday to grab a share of the first-round lead in the Challenge Tour’s D+D REAL Czech Challenge at the Golf & Spa Kunětická Hora in Dříteč in the Czech Republic.

Bekker made three birdies in his opening nine, and then picked up another on the 11th before dropping a shot on the 12th. He made two more birdies on 16 and 17 to share the lead with the Finnish pair of Oliver Lindell and Ilari Saulo and Spain’s Santiago Tarrio. There were six players one shot back on four-under.

The seven-time Sunshine Tour winner currently lies in fifth place on the Challenge Tour rankings after a solid start to the 2021 campaign in the three South African tournaments, but his share of 15th and 54th in the two Swedish tournaments in May left him somewhat downcast as he tries to get his European Tour card through the weight of his Challenge Tour performances.

“I struggled big time the last four weeks or so,” said Bekker. “I didn’t make much money and I wasn’t able to get into the Irish Challenge last week. I played nicely today, though. My game is pretty solid all round at the moment, and my putting was good for a change.”

Next best of the South Africans in the field was Jacques Blaauw, who opened his campaign with a two-under 70. JC Ritchie carded an opening 71, as did Jayden Schaper and Mathiam Keyser.

For the 38-year-old Bekker, the Challenge Tour campaign is almost a final roll of the dice to get himself onto the European Tour. “I’m going to play as many events out here as possible to try and get that card at the end of the season,” he said. “I need to just get a few more very good weeks in so I can at least go home to see the family.”

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