Casey Jarvis took advantage of the wind at St Francis Links on Friday as he carded a second successive four-under-par 68 to move to eight-under-par and a two-stroke lead at the halfway mark of the Sunshine Tour’s PGA Championship.
On the par-five 13th, he unleashed a 370-metre drive to leave himself a wedge in to the 495-metre hole dubbed ‘Bear Claws’, and tapped in the remaining 10-footer for eagle. That was the high point of a back nine that also included birdies on the 10th and the 11th. He made par all the way home to go with his level-par front nine, and it left him clear of a chasing pack of six players on six-under.
“It was pretty big drive,” said Casey of the tee shot on 13, “and it was downwind which made things quite difficult. But it’s a course I played a lot on as an amateur, and although I never won on it, I have had a couple of good finishes here.”
Jarvis is a rookie professional on the Sunshine Tour, and is looking to parlay his storied career as an amateur into a good start in the paid ranks. “It’s a lot different as a pro,” he said. “All these guys are good, so you have to be on top of your game all the time. But I’m settling down on the tour quite nicely now and it’s pretty cool to be in this position in this important tournament.”
It’s a position where he will have to keep looking over his shoulder, as there are two former PGA Championship winners in the group of six behind him: George Coetzee and Hennie Otto are both vastly experienced and have won South Africa’s second-oldest professional title. Coetzee had a one-under-par 71 and Otto a three-under 69 to move to six-under for the tournament.
Also in the chasing group is another former amateur star recently turned professional, Martin Vorster. Vorster and Jarvis played together for South Africa on many occasions, and, like Jarvis, Vorster seems to be finding his feet as a professional, and it showed with his five-under-par 67 in the second round.
Rhys West, Hennie O’Kennedy and Malcolm Mitchell make up the rest of the group in a share of second on six-under. Jake Redman was in eighth on five-under at halfway after a five-under 67, and Dylan Mostert, Stefan Wears-Taylor and Danie van Niekerk shared ninth on four-under.
“I don’t like to think too far ahead,” said Jarvis of his plans for the weekend. “I really just like to concentrate on each shot as it comes and see what happens at the end of the day.”
That approach will be tested on the weekend, but it has produced some memorable amateur moments for him. It could produce his first professional win, too.