Pretoria golfer Russel Franz fired a classy seven-under-par 65 to hit the front in the IGT Tour’s sixth Race to Asian Q-School event at CMR Golf Club on Monday.
The 23-year-old Zwartkops player traded an eagle and six birdies against a lone bogey for a one stroke lead over Dainfern’s Tyron Mc Comb.
Brendan de Lange and Wayne du Toit tied for third on 67, while amateurs Gareth Ackers and Philip Geerts from Italy got off to an encouraging start and share fifth on four under with Alwyn Vorster.
Last week’s Race to Asian Q-School Modderfontein winner, Werner van Niekerk, stayed in touch with a 69 and lurks three off the pace alongside Jaco Prinsloo.
Franz celebrated his maiden pro breakthrough at the IGT Tour’s Race to the USA Wingate Park in May and racked up his second victory on the country’s premier development Tour at the Race to the USA Krugersdorp a week later.
The GFG Academy golfer went slightly off the boil in the Race to Asian Q-School series, though, with a fifth place finish at Irene and a tie for seventh at Modderfontein his best results in five events.
“You have to accept that you have good weeks and bad weeks,” Franz said.
“The key is to take advantage when all the aspects of your game is working well and hopefully I can do that this week.
“I narrowly missed out in the Race to the USA, so winning this week would be incredible. I’d love to join the Race to Asian Q-School winners at the Asian Tour’s Qualifying School next year.”
Mc Comb has also struggled to find consistency this season, but a new sponsor has given the 23-year-old from Fourways a new lease on life.
“My family and my girlfriend are always incredibly supportive, and my coach Ed Holding at Dainfern is a rock, but it’s been really tough out there,” Mc Comb said.
“About six weeks ago, I signed on with SHS Africa GrRANA Energy and my confidence has steadily been climbing. You know you have a responsibility to perform with a sponsor, but at the same time, knowing that the finances are taken care of gives you a strange kind of freedom. It drives you on the course and it forces you to focus more.”
Mc Comb started with five pars before he reeled in back-to-back birdies at the 15th and 16th holes, but a poor chip at the par-four 17th cost him a shot.
He wiped the slate clean with a birdie at the first parred the next two holes before he racked up three birdies in a row. He sealed his opening 66 with another gain at the par-four ninth.
“A few weeks ago, I set myself a goal of achieving six top 10 finishes over the next four months as I prepare for the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School,” the Dainfern golfer said.
“I definitely played better last week to tie for 10th and I maintained that form here at CMR. I hit the ball really well and executed the shots the way I planned them. Right now, I believe anything is possible.”
FIRST ROUND SCORES
65 - Russel Franz
66 - Tyron Mc Comb
67 - Brendan De Lange, Wayne du Toit
68 - Gareth Akers (AMA), Philip Geerts ITA (AMA), Alwyn Vorster
69 - Jaco Prinsloo, Werner Van Niekerk
70 - Niel Meyer (AMA), Divan Van Den Heever, Calvin Caldeira (AMA)
71 - Brett Liddle, Juan Langeveld, Pieter Kruger, Merrick Van As (AMA), Rosswell Sinclair (AMA), Jerry Steyn, Tristen Strydom (AMA)
72 - Michael Dreyer, David Lamprecht, Ruan Huysamen NAM, Dayne Moore ZAM, Hano van der Walt, Louwtjie J van Vuuren (AMA), Hanbo Lee
73 - Coert Groenewald, Simon Kruger (AMA)
74 - James Garlinge (AMA), Cliff Howes, Dwayne Coetzee, Matthew Kiewitz (AMA), Shaun van Tonder
75 - Wayne Stroebel, Andi Dill (AMA), Bryandrew Roelofsz, Tristan Malan (AMA), MJ Viljoen
76 - Robert Herselman FRA, Stephan Erasmus (AMA), Rynardt Combrink, Christiaan Pretorius
77 - John McClean NIR, Glen de Waal NAM, Jaco Mouton, Keegan Steyn (AMA)
78 - Stephan De Beer (AMA), Jacquin Hess, Loic Csizmadia MUS (AMA), Pieter Van der Linde (AMA), Julian de Wet (AMA), Ashley Mulligan (AMA), Lucas Steyn
80 - Daren Malan (AMA), Shane Scheepers
81 - Houston Harwood (AMA)
82 - Craig Dreyer, David Rebelo (AMA)
83 - Wendall Pietersen (AMA)
84 - JP Schmidt (AMA)
86 - Jacob Lekoto
92 - Juan Momberg (AMA)
95 - Basia Ganda