Sunshine Tour

Ritchie returns to claim first round lead in Harare

JC Ritchie (Gallo Images)
JC Ritchie (Gallo Images)

Harare - Reigning Zimbabwe Open champion, JC Ritchie, returned to the golf course where he won his maiden Sunshine Tour title and wasted no time rekindling the relationship he has with the layout, carding an opening 66 to take a one-shot lead at this season's edition.

"It's a little bit like the golf course I grew up on," said Ritchie of his relationship with the Royal Harare Golf Club after his round.

"And the first golf course I became a member of in Pretoria. I'm familiar with the grass, the greens are just absolutely amazing and I don't know, since the first year I came to play here I just felt like I'm at home."

Opening with a birdie on the 10th, his first hole, Ritchie made par on the next hole before making a birdie his third hole. Those gains were reduced on the following hole as an unwanted bogey made its way onto his card.

That was just a temporary glitch for the 24-year-old because he went on to make two more birdies on his fifth and seventh holes.

"I absolutely ruffled it today," he noted. "I hit the golf ball really good, I'm putting really nicely and the greens allow for some good putting so I'm taking advantage of that. Even when it's not good, it's fun to play a golf course that you know. You know where to miss it and you know where not to miss it. You know the good places where to hit it and when you do, you know the greens."

That kind of course understanding came to show as Ritchie's back nine, the front nine of the course, was just as solid. After the par on the turn, back-to-back birdies followed.

He kept things tight in the middle of the round, giving nothing away and making four straight pars. He made further gains when he birdied the 17th and signed for a six-under-par opening round.

Tied for the third spot on five-under-par 67 is the trio of Martin Rohwer, Andrew van der Knaap, and veteran Vaughn Groenewald.

Teeing off in the afternoon in perfect weather conditions in Harare, Groenewald's experience came to the fore as he dropped a single shot all day while making six birdies in the process.

Last year's runner-up, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Jonathan Agren and Alex Haindl who played really well last week in Zambia, are two shots behind Ritchie on four-under.

Member of the Gary Player Class of 2018/19 Jacquin Hess and Bryce Easton share the eighth spot with four others going into the second round.

Scores:

66 - JC Ritchie

67 - Martin Rohwer, Andrew van der Knaap, Vaughn Groenewald

68 - Trevor Fisher Jnr, Jonathan Agren, Alex Haindl

69 - Bryce Easton, Jacquin Hess, David McIntyre, Callum Mowat, Breyten Meyer, Luke Jerling

70 - Pieter Moolman, Jake Redman, Ulrich van den Berg, Steve Surry, Hennie Otto, Tyrone Ferreira, Jack Harrison, Andrew Curlewis, Lyle Rowe, Jean Hugo, Christiaan Basson, Daniel van Tonder, Ockie Strydom, Andre De Decker, Jake Roos, Bruce McDonald

71 - MJ Viljoen, Allan Versfeld, Oliver Bekker, Wallie Coetsee, Fredrik From, Teboho Sefatsa, N.J. Arnoldi, Wynand Dingle, Hennie du Plessis, Jared Harvey, Titch Moore, Jaco Prinsloo, Matias Calderon, Peter Karmis, Mark Williams, Jason Smith

72 - Jacques P de Villiers, Anton Haig, Ryan Cairns, Colin Nel, Anthony Michael, Louis de Jager, Jaco Ahlers, Michael Palmer, Doug McGuigan, Combrinck Smit, Louis Albertse, Makhetha Mazibuko, Robson Chinoi, Bennie van der Merwe, Herman Loubser, Justin Harding, Kyle McClatchie, Merrick Bremner, Rhys West, Coert Groenewald, Franklin Manchest

73 - Matt Bright, Kayyam Rauf Mandhu, Scott Campbell, Toto Thimba, Madalitso Muthiya, Stephen Ferreira, Rourke van der Spuy, Chris Cannon, Matthew Carvell, James Hart du Preez, Estiaan Conradie, Francois Coetzee, Trainos Muradzikwa, Chris Swanepoel

74 - Tyler Hogarty, Duane Keun, Kyle Pilgrim, Jason Froneman, Stefan Engell Andersen, Philip Eriksson, Erhard Lambrechts, Simon Mburu, David Amm, Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Rhys Enoch, Lyford Yadyo, Mohammad Rauf Mandhu, Peter Banda

75 - Neil Schietekat, Ruan de Smidt, Cody Martin, Marc Cayeux, JJ Senekal, Gary Thompson, Omar Sandys, Ruan Conradie, Teaghan Gauche, Damon Stephenson, Michael Hollick, James Kamte, Aubrey Beckley, Ty Capps

76 - Biggie Chibvuri, Thompson Masiya, Lindani Ndwandwe, Robson Saurombe, Stuart Smith, Thembelani Vundla, Andrew Odoh

77 - Sipho Bujela, Desne Van Den Bergh, Theunis Bezuidenhout, Tonderayi Masunga, Thriston Lawrence, Phumlani Maluka, Julius Kamalizeni, Keelan Africa, Wayne Stroebel

78 - Benjamin Follett-Smith, Steven Lecuyer, TC Charamba, Keenan Davidse, Tyrone Ryan, Michael Schutz, Tafadzwa Nyamukondiwa, Dayne Moore

79 - Tatende Makunde, Thabang Simon, Nyasha Muyambo, Dean Schoultz

80 - Gary Ferguson, Anyway Katembenuka, Paul Chidale, Marthin Scheepers, Greg Bentley, Andre Nel

81 - James Kingston, Tafara Mpofu, Simon Katembenuka, Nemanja Savic, Irvin Mazibuko, Sean Bradley, Jason Viljoen

82 - Basil Wright, Mohit Mediratta, Theunis Spangenberg, William Weidner, Patrick Mwendapole

84 - Brian Gondo

85 - Andrew Burmester

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