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Ken Borland

Allure of playing SA Open at Gary Player CC brings the best out of Schietekat

Posted on January 07, 2022 by Ken

It may no longer be a co-sanctioned event, but the allure of playing the SA Open at Gary Player Country Club and having a shot at hoisting that famous and imposing multi-tiered trophy certainly brought out the best of Neil Schietekat on the first day at Sun City on Thursday.

Schietekat fired a marvellous seven-under-par 65 to join Oliver Bekker at the top of the leaderboard and afterwards pronounced his love for the famous Gary Player-designed course, where he won the SunBet Challenge in 2018.

“In my opinion this is the best course in the country and it helps that I’ve won here before,” Schietekat said after collecting six birdies and an eagle. “Obviously I’m going to lean towards this course, but I do love it and I played it today the same way as when I won in 2018.

“When they moved the SA Open here last year, I thought that maybe gave me a better chance of winning it. There’s still a long way to go, but I hit some good shots today on a course that was quite soft.

“It no longer being co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour is another story, but everyone here still wants to win it. It’s still our national open and it’s still the same trophy that you’ll hoist if you do win,” Schietekat said.

Bekker went out early on Thursday morning and made a fast start from the 10th hole with three successive birdies. The seven-time Sunshine Tour winner was out in 32 and then eagled the first as he came home in 33. Schietekat admitted he felt a bit of pressure chasing the score set by Bekker.

“The scores were pretty good in the morning and I was one-over through four holes, so you put a bit of pressure on yourself,” the 37-year-old from Harrismith said.

But he finally caught him with a run of three successive birdies from the fourth hole, having eagled the par-five first as he spun a pitch-shot back into the hole despite “cursing” himself for finding the fairway bunker from the tee.

Having enjoyed a fine season which includes eight top-10 finishes in 16 events, Schietekat looks well-equipped to win again at the Gary Player Country Club.

But European Tour campaigner Bryce Easton and the experienced Lyle Rowe are just one shot behind on six-under, while there is a group of four golfers tied in fifth place on five-under – Hennie du Plessis, Albert Venter, Heinrich Bruiners and Hennie O’Kennedy.

Former world top 50 golfer Justin Harding is three strokes off the lead after a 68, while the other favourites – Shaun Norris (69), Danie van Tonder (69), defending champion Christiaan Bezuidenhout (70), Dylan Frittelli (70), Dean Burmester (71) and Brandon Stone (72) – have some catching up to do but are decently placed.

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