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23rd April 2024 | Big Easy Tour

Veteran Simon in three-way share of lead at Huddle Park

Veteran Sunshine Tour campaigner, Thabang Simon played himself into a three-way share of the lead after he shot a five-under-par 67 on day one of the Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament at Huddle Park Golf and Recreation on Tuesday.

The Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament is another Sunshine Tour initiative designed to afford more players of colour opportunities to earn playing privileges in the 2024/25 season of the Sunshine Tour. The tournament is named after a former board member of the Sunshine Tour, the late Vusi Ngubeni, whose passion for golf was unparalleled.

Over 90 players of colour make up this week’s field and among them is Simon whose experience came to the fore in the first round. Along with Jabulane Mabilane and Richard Kruger, Simon fired in a beautiful 67 for a one-stroke lead ahead of day two at Huddle Park.

“I have set myself a few targets this week,” stated Simon. “The first is to try and win this tournament. The second is to try and play myself into a position where I will get my Sunshine Tour card if I fail to win. A start like this is always good in any tournament and I was happy with how I handled myself on the course.

“I feel like I should have scored better today but I just couldn’t make any putts. The longest putt I made was inside two meters. I missed two hole-in-ones and I think those would have helped me pull away from the other guys. But, it was a good round; solid overall and very few mistakes. I hope the next three days will go like this too.”

Simon made three birdies and a solitary bogey on his front nine but produced a flawless effort on the homeward stretch, reeling in three birdies without a blemish.

Mabilane’s round was an eventful one, characterised by seven birdies, an eagle, a bogey and a double. The Mbombela Golf Club player will be hoping to emulate this performance on moving day.

Kruger, too, was just as magnificent and produced a near-perfect round. While he worked hard to keep the big numbers off his scorecard, he couldn’t avoid the bogey he made on the par-four 15th.

“I was a solid front nine; just playing boring textbook golf,” said Kruger. “I just kept it boring and simple and made sure I’m hitting fairways and greens. And, I was rolling the putter really well and the four birdies on the front was just a really good set-up for the rest of the round.

“Other than that bogey on 15, I thought my back nine was good. I didn’t make costly errors and that’s important around this golf course. But, I think after the turn, it was auto-pilot from there; just cruising and avoiding unnecessary mistakes. I’m looking forward to the second round.”

Hayden Garcia, Adriel Poonan, Tristin Gallant and Slenda Sithebe are the closest challengers, just a shot off the pace on four-under-par. At three-under and in a share of eighth lies Trevor Mahoney and amateur Sibusiso Magagula who was very impressive on the day.

“I thought it was a great round,” said the 22-year-old former South African Golf Development Board prodigy. “I scrambled a bit today but I was very excited to be mixing it up with the big boys. It was fun because it gave you the experience of competing against seasoned professionals. I am just happy that I played well and the scores show it.”

The top 12 finishers at the end of this qualifying school will earn Sunshine Tour cards for next season while the top 30 will get Altron Big Easy Tour cards.