Chris Delport produced a magnificent eagle to vault into pole position with former champion Mellette Hendrikse, while three-time champion Jock Wellington was at his vintage best in the second round of the Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Amateur Stroke Play Championship on Thursday.
Hendrikse, the champion in 2012, birdied all four par fives at Pecanwood Country Club for a 70 to set the clubhouse target at six-under-par 138.
Delport reeled in birdies at the fourth and fifth holes on his back nine before knocking in a foot-long putt for eagle at the par-five seventh for 69 and a share of the A-Section lead.
Wellington, meanwhile, offset two bogeys with three birdies and vaulted within two shots of pacesetters after he holed out at the par-three 13th.
The 63-year-old, who won the prestigious national championship in 2001, 2006 and 2008, signed for a 69 to claim a share of third on four under with overnight leader, Johan Marais, who carded a 73.
Delport was relaxed about the prospect of taking on Gauteng North stablemate Hendrikse, who came into the championship on the back of his fifth victory this season.
“As far as I am concerned, Mellette is the tournament favourite and all the pressure is on him,” the 54-year-old Zwartkops player said.
“I once played a league match against a young Rory Sabbatini. I told him: ‘Youngster, if you beat me today, all the guys will say hard luck, but if I beat you, they will call it major upset’.
“It’s the same for Mellette. His game is rock solid at the moment. I had one bad shot at the third, where I thought I took a nine-iron and smashed a seven-iron into the houses. Otherwise I had a great day out there. You never know what will happen on the day.”
Hendrikse was two off the pace after two rounds last year, but his title defence was derailed when organisers were forced to call a 36-hole tournament due adverse weather conditions at Fancourt.
The 54-year-old Akasia golfer has dominated the senior amateur circuit this season, but is cautious ahead of the final round.
“I’m striking the ball very well, but the putter went ice-cold on me out there,” he said. “I was hitting my irons close, but I just couldn’t sink a putt. It was just one of those days, I guess. I may have to stick the putter in oven before we tee off tomorrow.”
Wellington claimed his 10th career ace with a well-timed seven-iron, although the result turned out much better than the shot he executed.
“I sort of pulled my teeshot, but for all intents and purposes, let’s just say it ended up exactly where I intended it to go,” the Kyalami senior joked.
“I have one and a half full houses at my home course, but this one ace was a very welcome bonus and I expect it’s going to cost me a lot of money later.
“It’s well worth it, though. I don’t hit it as long as the youngsters like Mellette, but it’s such a treat to be in contention and to go out with the new contenders in the final round tomorrow.”
SECOND ROUND LEADERBOARD (top 20 / completed scores only)
138 Chris Delport 69 69; Mellette Hendrikse 68 70
140 Jock Wellington 71 69; Johan Marais 67 73
142 Morgan Phillips 71 71
144 Julian Visser 72 72
145 Roy van Blerk 72 73
146 Lawrence Franklin 77 69; Robin Ashby 70 76
147 Leon Scheepers 74 73; David Konzani 71 76; Brian Mampies 70 77