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21st June 2022 | Big Easy Tour

On-form Hendler takes early lead at Randpark

Despite shooting a round of four-under-par 67 to take a one-stroke lead in the first round of the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament which is being played on the Firethorn course at Randpark Golf Club, Ricky Hendler felt like he left a lot of shots out there on Tuesday.

Playing Firethorn for the first time in his career this week, Hendler was his usual self on the golf course; aggressively attacking pins where he felt he could capitalise and walking away with a par when things didn’t go his way. He did make a couple of bogeys but the left-handed Hendler was still happy with his opening round in Randburg.

“I started solidly and I was one-under through three,” recalled Hendler, “but the second hole is just the toughest hole I have ever played.” I know it’s usually a par-five for the members but it was playing as a par-four and it is just tough. The putting felt pretty good today but it felt like I left a few shots out there today.”

He opened his round with pars on the first two holes before a brace of birdies got onto his card on the third and fourth. A par-save on the par-three fifth was followed by another birdie on the sixth before the Dainfern Golf Club player dropped on seven. He bounced back solidly on the ninth, making a birdie there to turn in 32.

“I played a practice round here on Sunday and played in the pro-am and couldn’t break par,” Hendler continued. “It’s such a tough course; you have to hit your driver long and straight and you’ve got to be really smart and stay focused. I said to my caddy this morning that if there is one thing we need to do right today, it’s to stay focused all the time.

“We stayed focused on every shot; checked the pin sheet and that is the only way we were going to play well around here. You can hit a shot that is not even that bad and end up making a bogey and that is how tough this course is.”

Hendler’s back nine consisted of a bogey on 11 and an eagle on the 14th. Hot on Hendler’s heels is the quartet of Jason Roets, Ruan De Smidt, Makhetha Mazibuko and last week’s winner, Gregory McKay. They are a shot adrift thanks to rounds of 68 on day one.

“My short game was impressive today,” said Mazibuko, “and I was happy with my tee shots. It was tough with the wind so my short game had to be on point. I putted well too but I think my short game carried me through today.

“You have to be patient here because the golf course is really tough and you need to keep it in play or else you get punished. But three-under is a good score and it’s exactly the start I needed this week.”

Dayne Moore, Luan Boshoff, Nicholaus Frade and Karabo Mokwena are tied for sixth on one-under-par after the first round.

The Big Easy Tour was founded in 2011 with support from Ernie Els and counts current international star Christiaan Bezuidenhout among its former Order of Merit winners.