If Christiaan ‘Rambo’ Bezuidenhout and Combrinck Smit were looking to build some confidence for the upcoming Zimbabwe Open, the pair couldn’t have asked for a better start in the Wanderers Better Ball Challenge on Tuesday.
Four-time IGT Challenge Tour champion Bezuidenhout and Smit, who gained his Sunshine Tour just two weeks ago, revelled in the format of the 54-hole IGT Challenge Tour event and racked up eight birdies and a pair of eagles for a 12 under par 59 and a two shot lead at Wanderers Golf Club.
Fellow Sunshine Tour players Tyrone Ferreira and Mark Williams finished at 10 under 61 in joint second with Kyle Barker and amateur Dylan Mostert.
Heinrich Bruiners and Irvin Mazibuko finished a further two shots adrift after reeling in eight birdies for a 63. The Gary Player Class of 2017 pairing are tied for fourth with Steven Ferreira and Merrick Bremner, as well as Anthony Michael and Ryan Tipping.
Bezuidenhout fired four birdies on the trot to get the pair underway and added further gains at eight and nine.
“Combrinck also birdied the eighth and we turned six under, but we dipped to 11 under after he eagled the two par and birdied 14 and I holed a six-footer at the last for the 59,” he said.
“We had a lot of fun out there and we dovetailed well. We were never in any serious trouble, but one of us always had a tee shot down the middle of the fairway.”
A stellar amateur career took Bezuidenhout to the number spot in the Open Amateur Rankings.
The Wanna Be A Champion Academy player cut his teeth on the country’s premier development golf tour from March 2015. Over the next nine months, he collected four trophies before he graduated to the 2016 Sunshine Tour with victory at Qualifying School.
The Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate golfer signed off on a superb first season in the paid ranks with the Leading Rookie honours at the end of the Tshwane Open, but now he has his heart set on earning his passage to the European Tour via the Challenge Tour this season.
“I love coming back to the IGT Challenge Tour to keep competitive and to stay grounded, because the tour is close-knit, like a family, but the standard is high and the players, pro and amateur, are highly competitive,” he said. “It’s nice to come back and take stock.
“Golf in the paid ranks is a process. You have to take it one step at the time. I’ve had a great start to my career here on the IGT Challenge Tour, a really good rookie season on the Sunshine Tour and now it’s time for the next step, so I’m heading to the European Challenge Tour for four months after the Zimbabwe and Zambia Open.”
Smit, who played in a couple of IGT Challenge Tour events to prepare for Qualifying School earlier this month, also enjoyed the unique format of his first pro start.
“After Rambo went on a tear over the front nine, so I had to step it up on the back nine,” he said. “After a solid tee shot down the 10th fairway, I hit an 8-iron to 25 feet and holed the putt for eagle. At 13, my tee shot actually rolled through to the next fairway, but I had a clear view of the green and I hit 9-iron to eight feet and holed the putt for the second eagle. And I hit it to four feet for the birdie at 14.
“Our score could probably have been three or four shots better, but both of us battled to read the greens. They are very undulating and we both found it tough to commit to the lines.
“I like the format, too, because knowing you have a partner who has your back allows you to hit the ball with a lot more freedom that you would during a regular stroke play tournament.”
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as (AMA)
59 - Christiaan Bezuidenhout & Combrinck Smit
61 - Tyrone Ferreira & Mark Williams; Kyle Barker & Dylan Mostert (AMA)
63 - Steven Ferreira & Merrick Bremner; Heinrich Bruiners & Irvin Mazibuko; Anthony Michael & Ryan Tipping
64 - CJ Levey & Russel Franz
65 - Jaco Prinsloo & JC Ritchie; Neil Schietekat & Ulrich van den Bergh; Matthew Bright & Matthew Spacey; MJ Viljoen & Zander Lombard
66 - Andrew van der Knaap & Brandon Stone; Matthew Vogel & Michael Palmer; Thabang Simon & John Bele; Leon Visser (AMA) & Bradley Diggeden (AMA); Gerard du Plooy & Makhetha Mazibuko; Divan Marais & Jonathan Waschefort
67 - Musiwalo Nethunzwi & Sipho Bujela; Ockie Strydom & Justin Turner; Bryn Flanagan & Ruan de Smidt
68 - Stuart Smith BOT & Greg Bentley ZIM; Bryce Myburgh & Cameron Gunning; Breyten Meyer & Armandt Scholtz
69 - Neil Cheetham ENG & Peter Wilson ENG; Teddy Mathebula & Jabulane Mabilane, Antonio Costa CHL & Matias Calderon CHL
70 - WM Coetzee (AMA) & Eric Nel (AMA); Dylan Morton (AMA) & Ivanna Samu
71 - Ruan Conradie & Estiaan Conradie; Arthur Horne & Eric van Rooyen
72 - Maverick Faber FRA (AMA) & Guillaume Bernier (AMA); Dylan Docherty & Rhys West; Bryce McCabe & Mohammed Ismail (AMA)
74 – Zillan du Pisani (AMA) & Jacques Snyman (AMA)
© IGT Challenge Tour