Musi moves into pole position
Musiwalo Nethunzwi raced around Observatory Golf Club in 66 blows on Tuesday to share the halfway lead at the R100 000 Sunshine Big Easy Tour tournament presented by Stonehage.
“It’s been a perfect experience. I played well, I was good off the tee and I putted great, so everything really went my way,” he said.
The final round on Wednesday will coincide with Nethunzwi’s 24th birthday, and he’s keen to tee it up in the final three-ball. He’ll play alongside fellow leaders Bennie van der Merwe and Zimbabwe’s Micky Hough.
“This score has been coming for a while,” said Nethunzwi. “I’ve been working hard and struggling a bit on the main tour. A round like today is especially good for my confidence, and I’m ready for tomorrow.”
In 2012 he received two invitations to Big Easy tournaments as part of an initiative between the Sunshine Tour and the South African Golf Development Board. In spite of his amateur status he shone during those two tournaments and recorded a third-place finish at Big Easy Houghton and a sixth-place finish at Big Easy Gary Player. Now the Modderfontein Golf Club professional is facing his first chance at career earnings.
“When I was an amateur it was different, and now that I’m playing for the real thing there is more pressure, but more reward!” he said.
Tuesday’s round was a rollercoaster for the young gun, who started with an eagle at the par-five second, but followed it with a double-bogey at the par-four third.
A bogey at the fourth looked ominous, but Nethunzwi dug deep and birdied the fifth and ninth to turn one below the card. From there he was ready to go low.
A last drop at the 11th did little to upset the youngster, who had shifted the momentum with his recovery on the front nine. He eagled the 14th and made three birdies over his final four holes to finish on six-under-par.
Morning starter Micky Hough set the pace early on in the day with his 66, carrying good form from the Zimbabwe Open, where he made his second Sunshine Tour cheque of the season.
Fellow leader Bennie van der Merwe is a seasoned campaigner on the Sunshine Tour and was pleased to shoot 66. He praised the Big Easy Tour for boosting the confidence of players who often fly below the radar.
“It’s always nice to shoot 66 and this is a tricky track, because you have to shoot it straight. I love this course, and I’m glad to post such a good score here.
“It’s nice to come out and play these events. It almost feels like a Sunshine Tour event, because the Big Easy fields this year are full of Sunshine Tour golfers and the standard is really high,” he said.
Four players loomed just one stroke back from the leaders, with 2011’s Big Easy Kempton Park winner Dean O’Riley leading the chase. He was joined by Rocky Tlhabanyane, Coenie Bester and Pieter Moolman.
Eight players shared eighth on four-under, while a further 10 players reached the clubhouse with three-under-par 69s.
SCORES (RSA unless otherwise specified):
66 - Micky Hough (ZIM), Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Bennie van der Merwe
67 - Rocky Tlhabanyane, Coenie Bester, Dean O'Riley, Pieter Moolman
68 - Jacques Kruyswijk, Divan Gerber, Ryan Tipping, Steven Ferreira, Morne Buys, Mark Fensham, Derick Petersen,Darryn Lloyd
69 - Martin du Toit, Derik Ferreira, Omar Sandys, Yubin Jung, Paul Bradshaw, Michael Downes (ENG), Andre Cruse,Grant Veenstra, Drikus van der Walt, Jacques van Tonder
70 - Albert Tsai, Willie van der Merwe, Brett Liddle, Neil Cheetham (ENG), Kyle Stevens, John Bele, Allister de Kock,Makgetha Mazibuko, Thomas Lovett, Alpheus Kelapile, Jaco Prinsloo, Warren Holland, Desne van den Bergh, Thabang Simon
71 - Raymond Mathonsi (SWZ), Coenie Stoop, Mark Murless, PG van Zyl, Bryan Martin (USA), Irvin Mazibuko, Johan du Buisson,Justin Turner, Attie Schwartzel, Daniel Hammond, Jared Harvey, Maritz Wessels, Beyers Smith, Tsietsi Mofokeng (LES),Otto van Greunen, Ryan Thompson, Khaya Jika
72 - Aubrey Barnard, Callie Swart, Shaun Ellis, Stefan Engell Andersen (KEN), Louis Calitz, Arthur Horne (SWZ)
73 - Gert Myburgh, Paul Elton, Jacquin Hess, Gerhard Trytsman, Chris Erasmus, Heinrich Bruiners, Johann Mostert,Stuart Smith (BOT), Ian Hutchings, Jeff Inglis (ENG), Conway Kunneke (AMA), Dayne Moore (ZAM), Francois Coetzee, Roberto Lupini,Ruan Huysamen (NAM), Kevin Stone
74 - Kenneth Dube, Wynand Dingle, Fezekile Kana (AMA), Michael Loppnow, Laurison Mahlangu, Sipho Bujela, James du Plessis,Lindani Ndwandwe, Riaan Matthee
75 - Lean Boezaart, Justin Levy (NED), Johan de Beer, James Searson, Neo Thubisi, Jaco Olver
76 - Clifford Howes, Drikus Bruyns, Duane Keun, Toto Thimba (Jnr), JP van der Walt, Zuko Sangqu, Scott Ferguson (ZIM), Langley Perrins
77 - Patrick Spindler, Louis Botha
78 - Steven van Heerden, Lebo Ramukosi, Riekus Nortje, Cameron Esau, Wandile Gininda
79 - Jacques de Villiers, Johan Bekker
80 - Nathan Waghorn
81 - Bongani Mtsweni