Less than a month since his breakthrough victory on the IGT, Pretoria amateur Hendrikus Stoop is lining up another visit to the winner’s circle in the Race to Asian Q-School series.
The 23-year-old TuksSport Golf Academy member series fired an unmatched three-under-par 69 to take a one stroke lead in the first round of the Wingate Park Country Club event on Monday. However, 2013 IGT Tour winner Lean Boezaart, James Searson, JC van Dommelen, Werner van Niekerk and two-time Race to the USA series winner Russel Franz are all in hot pursuit.
Meanwhile amateurs Ross Sinclair, Zabastian de Jager, Leon Scheepers and Slade Fick share the stage at one-under-par 71 with professionals Matthew Kent, TJ Bekker and Ryan Gosling.
Ted Hendriks leads the four-man chase at even-par, while Chrystal Cooper from Wingate and Randpark amateur Jacqui Akers both carded rounds of 76 to finish just seven shots off the pace.
Stoop reserved his trip to the 2015 Asian Tour’s Qualifying School with a come-from-behind win in July, but the Limpopo native is still going to go for gold.
“If you win twice in the series, the second spot automatically goes to the final event,” he said. “It’s a really good system, because it gives eight players a chance to go to Q-School.
“Now that I’ve won on the amateur circuit and on the IGT Tour this season, it is really important to me that I build on this and continue to improve.
“I really want to get my consistency to a point where I am in contention every week.”
Only 13 players managed to break par on a tough scoring day.
Stoop led the way, racking up birdies at the par-five second, 15th and 18th and wiped out a bogey on each nine with an eagle at the par-five 13th.
“The wind blew really hard all weekend, so the greens were rock hard,” said Stoop. “You couldn’t attack the pins because it was impossible to stop the ball.
“I made a lot of good putts and I limited my mistakes. My tee shot at the seventh finished behind a tree and all I could do was punch out sideways and take my loss.
“I caught a bad lie just right off the 10th fairway and I couldn’t get it all the way to the green. I pitched onto the green, expecting the ball to bounce and roll, but it stopped dead just inside the fringe. Other than those two holes, it was really a pretty solid round.”
FIRST ROUND SCORES
69 - Hendrikus Stoop (AMA)
70 - Russel Franz, Lean Boezaart, James Searson, JC van Dommelen, Werner van Niekerk
71 - Rosswell Sinclair (AMA), Matthew Kent, Zabastian de Jager (AMA), TJ Bekker, Leon Scheepers (AMA), Slade Fick (AMA), Ryan Gosling
72 - Ted Hendriks, Hennie du Plessis (AMA), Andi Dill (AMA), Jerry Steyn
73 - Teaghan Gauche (AMA), Zander Lombard (AMA), Bryn Flanagan (AMA), Coert Groenewald, Mark Fraser, Duane Keun, Ruan Conradie (AMA), Stephan de Beer (AMA), David Rebelo (AMA)
74 - Brendan de Lange, Rae Mackie, Conway Kunneke, Jason Smith (AMA), Jandre Fullard (AMA), Christiaan Greyling (AMA)
75 - DK Kim, Calvin Caldeira (AMA), Duncan Neill (AMA), Eduard van den Berg (AMA), Divan Marais (AMA), Pieter van der Linde (AMA)
76 - Hano van der Walt, James Garlinge (AMA), Tristen Strydom (AMA), Christian Kayumba-Mbanga ZIM, Quintin Crause (AMA), Crystal Cooper (AMA), Brendan Britten NAM (AMA), JP Schmidt (AMA), Jacqui Akers (AMA), Tjaart Van Wyk (AMA), Terence Boardman
77 - Albert Visser (AMA), David Lamprecht, Simon Kruger (AMA), Herman Minnie, MJ Viljoen, Werner van der Walt, Wesley Baptiste (AMA)
78 - Byron Garvie, Dwayne Coetzee, Wayne Stroebel, Niel Meyer (AMA), Frans Strydom, Antonio Rosado POR, NJ Arnoldi (AMA), Marco De Beer (AMA), Jacquin Hess
79 - Jaco Mouton, Nikki Jonker (AMA), Shane Scheepers, Shaun van Tonder
80 - Shane Heckler (AMA)
81 - Stephan Erasmus (AMA), Matthew Adams (AMA), Rhoan Gardiner, Johan Smit (AMA)
82 - Ruan Huysamen NAM, Daniel Joubert (AMA)
83 - Andre Louw, Christiaan Pretorius
84 - Werner Lourens (AMA)
89 - Etzard Grimbeek (AMA)
94 - Gustav Erasmus