Dermot McElroy was red hot but it was Jack Hume who led the Irish when he opened with five under par 67 in the South African Stroke Play Championship at Blue Valley Golf and Country Club near Pretoria.
After an opening par at the 10th, Waker Cup star got off to a red hot start with four birdies on the spin and another at the par-five 18th to turn in 31.
While he cooled off on his homeward nine with seven straight pars to start, he followed his lone bogey of the day at the short eighth with a closing birdie three.
The young Naas maestro’s 67 was good enough for a share of seventh place with the likes of his Scottish Walker Cup team mate Ewen Ferguson, leaving him just three strokes adrift of local player Jason Smith.
Looking to end a 15-month title drought, Pretoria amateur Smith fired a course record, eight-under par 64 to lead by one stroke from Scotland’s Scott Gibson and South Africa’s Aubrey Beckley.
It was a good day for the Irish with five of the eight-strong contingent inside the top 40 after the opening day.
Ballymena talent McElroy shook off some of his winter rust with a four under 68 that looked like it might be a 65 or 64 until he dropped three shots in his last five hole.
The West of Ireland winner started on the 10th and followed birdies at the 12th and 13th with an eagle two at the 16th and a birdie four at the 18th to turn in five under 31.
He then birdied the fourth and fifth to get to seven under but dropped shots at the fifth, seventh and eighth to end the day tied for 15th,
Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan, Hermitage’s Rowan Lester and Castle’s Alex Gleeson posted two under 70s to share 37th with John Ross Galbraith (72), Robin Dawson (73) and Colm Campbell (73) in the middle of the pack.
South African Stroke Play Championship at Blue Valley Golf and Country Club (par 72)
- 1 Jason Smith -8 64
- T2 Scott Gibson -7 65
- T2 Aubrey Beckley -7 65
- T4 Luke Trocado -6 66
- T4 Brandon Anthony Cloete -6 66
- T4 Grant Forrest -6 66
- T7 Jack Hume -5 67
- T7 Dylan Mostert -5 67
- T7 Victor Veyret -5 67
- T7 Michele Cea -5 67
- T7 Philip Geerts -5 67
- T7 Bob MacIntyre -5 67
- T7 Sandy Scott -5 67
- T7 Ewen Ferguson -5 67
- T15 Dermot McElroy -4 68
- T37 Stuart Grehan -2 70
- T37 Rowan Lester -2 70
- T37 Alex Gleeson -2 70
- T64 John Ross Galbraith - 72
- T81 Robin Dawson +1 73
- T81 Colm Campbell +1 73
Casey tops at Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links
Headfort's Brian Casey gave himself a belated 25th birthday present with victory in the gross in the Tuesday Winter Series at Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links.
The former Mullingar Scratch Trophy winner, who played brilliantly to make last season's European Tour Q-School Final Stage and took 20th in the EuroPro Tour money list, carded a two over 73 in tough, chilly conditions at the Bernhard Langer designed links.
Longford's Colin Smith, who plays off a handicap of five, won the best nett with a super 71.