Scottish duo sharing lead in South African Stroke-Play

Scottish pair Euan Walker and Kieran Cantley got off to flying starts to share the lead with home player Luca Filippi after the opening round in the South African Stroke Play Championship in Stellenbosch.

Barassie’s Walker, winner of the recent African Amateur Championship, made a fast start with birdies at the second and third holes, and started the back nine on three-under after another gain at the par five eighth.

He added a brace of birdies at 14 and 15 and notched a rare birdie at the tough closing hole.

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“It was pretty stressful the first few holes, trying to contend with the conditions, so I’m absolutely delighted to finish the way I did,” said Walker.

“I actually hit my tee shot up against a staked tree at the second. In the absence of a rules official I played two balls – one with relief and one without.

“I managed to make birdie from the one with relief, and was really happy when the rules official at the green confirmed that I was entitled relief. The birdie at three carried the momentum and I settled down from there.”

The par-4, 312-metre closing hole gifted only nine birdies to the 148-strong starting and Walker was delighted that an errant tee shot got him the last gain.

“I was actually stuck between the trees off the tee and it made playing to the back pin a little easier, because I was forced to play a low running shot. It ran up on to the back tier and I managed to knock the putt in for birdie,” he added.

Liberton man Cantley racked up four birdies on the front, but gave a shot back to the field at fourth.

He made three birdies on the bounce from 12 and eclipsed Walker with a birdie at 17, but a poor decision on par-4 18th cost him the outright lead.

“I attached the pin and paid the price,” said Cantley. “I was really pleased when I got it to seven under on 17. I played it smart with an iron off the tee and I laid up. It was a sucker flag, so I didn’t go for it and just played for the centre of the green.

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“I left myself a 40-footer for birdie and the pace on the first putt was just perfect. I watched it dribble in the hole.

“I hit a good tee shot on 18 and had 147 yards flag. I was playing really well, so I went for it, but I just tugged a wedge left and it bounced once and spun into the hazard. I made a good up-and-down for bogey but it was a disappointing finish. It was a good round overall.”

Cantley said he enjoyed yet another different kind of challenge at De Zalze.

“The three courses we played on the Africa Swing have been so different, but they are all really good courses,” he said.

“Leopard Creek was just amazing. That’s some golf course, out of this world. It’s long and you really have to think your way around it. For the SA Amateur, we had this wee, shorter course but you had to be really accurate with your tee shots with all the trees.

“De Zalze this week is pretty generous off the tee, but it’s a second shot golf course. You have to hit your mid-irons and your short irons in the correct positions on the greens to have a hope of holing putts.”