By Matthews Mfubu (Fullpage Media & Communications)
Slade Pickering played a scintillating opening round of seven-under-par 65 to lead by two strokes on day one of the Altron Big Easy Tour event at Blue Valley Golf Estate on Tuesday.
Pickering started like a house on fire, making three birdies on the trot before making a round-boosting eagle on the par-five fifth. Three straight pars on the front nine sealed a bogey-free 31 on that stretch. He added four more pars to his card before making further gains, birdieing the 14th to go six-under through 14.
“I started with those three birdies and the eagle and I kind of went blank on that stretch,” said Pickering in the post-round interview. “To be fair, on the second hole I hit it into a bunker and I didn’t have a great lie, with a bit of sand behind the ball. And then, when I hit it, it just popped out onto the green and rolled into the hole and then from there, I didn’t think, I just played.”
With the wind starting to pick up a little around Blue Valley, Pickering was not going to be overwhelmed. Instead, he relied on information he’d collected during his practice round here as he navigated the first round of this 54-hole tournament.
“When I saw the wind this morning when I came to the golf course I just told myself that today I don’t have to fight the wind,” revealed Pickering. “I just told myself that I need to play my game and not worry about the wind. I just went out and plotted my way around; played to my strengths and it worked. Most of my play was positioning; putting myself into positions where I was comfortable with the club and that worked out for me.”
Pickering, who plays out of Pecanwood Golf Estate, dropped a shot on the 16th en route to his near-perfect outing on Tuesday. However, he was quick to shrug that off, with back-to-back birdies affirming a round of 65 and confirming Pickering’s spot atop the leaderboard.
Two shots off the pace after the first round lies Werner Deyzel. His eventful round consisted of four birdies, two eagles and two dropped shots. Despite the two bogeys he made, Deyzel was pleased with his start at Blue Valley.
“I played well today,” he said. “The first 13 holes, I hit 13 greens and made a couple of putts and I was six-under at some stage. My strategy was just to hit good shots off the tee. My game is feeling good right now and the flat stick is working, so I am not complaining.”
Mauritian Pierre Pellegrin, last week’s winner Travis Ladner, Dylan O’Leary, Lyle Pedro, LB Boshoff, Caylum Boon and Cameron Moralee all carded rounds of 68 to share the third spot after the opening round.
Andrew Williamson, veteran Thabang Simon, Christopher Long and Warwick Purchase make up the top 10 on three-under-par.