He might not be leading, but Bryce Easton was pleasantly surprised by his opening round of seven-under-par 66 on Thursday on The Links at Fancourt in the opening round of the Sunshine Tour’s Dimension Data Pro-Am.
Even with three bogeys on his card, Easton shook off the golfing rust admirably, and his incredible tally of 10 birdies saw him end the day two shots off the pace set by New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier, whose nine-under 64 also came on The Links. Sharing the lead was France’s Adrien Saddier with a nine-under-par 63 on Outeniqua.
The tournament is played on all three courses at Fancourt, including Outeniqua and Montagu, for the first three rounds ahead of the 54-hole cut, and the final round will be decided over the challenging Montagu layout.
With The Links being played as a par-73, it takes all three rounds for the totals to shake themselves out, but Hillier’s round was superb, giving him a one-stroke edge over Switzerland’s Robert Foley, whose eight-under 64 came on Outeniqua, widely regarded as the course on which the pros need to go low if they want to be in contention. Saddier did just that, with a bogey-free effort laying down a marker for the rest of the tournament as he raced home over the back nine in six-under 30.
Four of the six players on seven-under in a share of fourth made their scores on Outeniqua, with the other two coming on The Links from Easton and Jbe’ Kruger. The four on Outeniqua were 2018 champion Jaco Ahlers, Robbie van West of the Netherlands, Estiaan Conradie, who had an ace on the seventh, and Germany’s Alexander Knappe.
“I’d hoped to shake off some rust from my off-season in the Kit Kat Group Pro-Am last week,” said Easton, “but that didn’t happen with all the rain. So I’m over the moon with my score here, especially since I gave away a couple of soft birdies and still managed to go low.”
Easton, who bases himself in the United Kingdom, has won three times on the Sunshine Tour, with his most recent title coming in April 2018 when he won the Zimbabwe Open in Harare. He will stay in South Africa – and Kenya – to get his 2022 campaign underway, and his fast start is just what he wanted.
“I didn’t know what to think, to be honest,” said Easton of his start which had five birdies in the first six holes. “You just ride a streak like that, and to turn in 31 on The Links is pretty special. And even a two-under on the homeward nine felt good, except for those two soft bogeys.
“I play Montagu in the second round, and that’s a proper test. And, quite frankly, I’m not sure Outeniqua is necessarily easy. Sure, you’ve got shorter irons into most of the greens, so I suppose it’s a course you can get after, and I guess I’ll have to do that on Saturday.”
The best score on Montagu in the first round was a superb six-under 66 by Germany’s Max Schmitt, who had an eagle, seven birdies and three bogeys on his card.