Espen rising to the challenge
The headlines from day one of the South African Open Championship at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate will surely be dominated by the extraordinary round of 64 by Merrick Bremner which tied the course record.
One man who quietly went about his business on the opening morning though was Norway’s Espen Kofstad, who cruised to a three under-par round of 69.
“I started off really nicely (from the tenth hole) with three birdies in the first three. I had a three-putt on 16 but I came back with two birdies on 17 and 18. I didn’t quite get it going the back nine, but I’m very happy,” he said.
Very few in South Africa would be familiar with the young Norwegian’s name, and even fewer would be aware of his significant achievements this year. Kofstad announced himself to the golfing world as he clinched the Order of Merit on the European Challenge Tour. Two victories and consistent play throughout the year was enough to see off the challenge of Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg, who mounted an almighty charge by winning four events in the final three months of the season.
But Kofstad came out on top, and now looks to be an exciting prospect after securing his full playing card for the European Tour next year. The 22 year-old is not looking too far ahead though, and is just making the most of his experience at the SA Open for now.
“This is awesome! I’m just trying to keep my good form going and enjoy this as much as I can.
“I really hope I can do something this week. If I keep playing like I have from the middle part of the season on the Challenge Tour until now, I feel like I’ll be up there. I feel so comfortable over almost every shot, and some putts go in so I’m just having a great time,” he said.
The youngster had the enthusiasm of someone who was in their element, and it was clear that he is thoroughly enjoying his time in the Republic.
“South Africa’s awesome. Every time I go here I have a great time. I’ve been a few times. We’ve had training camps at San Lameer in Durban, and I played Joburg Open last year. I just really like it here,” he said.
Kofstad only turned pro in 2011, but already he seems poised for a meteoric rise in the world of professional golf. He may reflect on what might have been today after a slightly disappointing second nine, but Kofstad remains right in the hunt. And winning the SA Open would be a sensational way of making his mark on the European Tour.
But even if it’s not to be this week, South Africans should sit up and take notice, because Espen Kofstad looks to be someone who is destined for stardom in the not too distant future.