Hermitage’s Rowan Lester cited a much-improved driving performance as the catalyst for an opening six-under par round of 66 that sees him trailing by just two shots at the South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Randpark.
Lester hit the ground running with five birdies in an electric first six holes and he made seven in total to end the day tied for third alongside South Africa’s Casey Jarvis and two shots behind Scotland’s James Wilson.
“I just got off to a very quick start. I holed a lot of putts and six birdies in the first nine holes always helps,” said Lester.
“Last week was a little bit of a struggle. Felt like the driving wasn’t great but everything else was great, so I thought once I got the driver going, I’d be doing well. And that proved right. The back nine was okay. I just kind of hung in there.”
After largely struggling last week, Lester is relishing a shot at redemption at a wet Randpark as he heads the Irish challenge going into Tuesday’s second round.
“The golf course is amazing. Last week and this week we’ve been spoiled. I think I’d rather this one. I didn’t play great last week but maybe the score today helps make the course feel a bit better.
“I’ve been in college in America, which is why I couldn’t make the last few years, and it’s really great to be back.”
2020 #SAStrokePlay UPDATE
A sweet 6-under-par 66 at the home of the #SAOpen for @GUIGolf National Squad member Rowan Lester & that get’s him in the top 3 on day 1 …
The @Hermitagegolfc player is 2 behind leading Scot James Wilson at @RandparkGolf #golfrsa #AfricaSwing pic.twitter.com/byzr7MBzOV
— GolfRSA (@GolfRSA) February 10, 2020
As for Ireland’s other competing stars, Mallow’s James Sugrue and Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty find themselves in a share of 16th at two-under after the pair shared sixth last week at the African Amateur at Leopard Creek.
Holywood’s Tom McKibbin is a shot further back alongside Naas bomber Robert Brazill after they signed for one-under 71s.
Malone’s Matthew McClean is just inside the top-50 at even par while Massereene’s Tiarnan McLarnon (73) and Carton House’s Keith Egan (74) rounded off the Irish scoring.
Full scoring HERE
South Africa squad to play the South African Stroke Play (10-13 Feb) in Randpark:
Robert Brazill (Naas); Keith Egan (Carton House); Rowan Lester (Hermitage); Matthew McClean (Malone); Tom McKibbin (Holywood); Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene); Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk); James Sugrue (Mallow)
The GUI’s High Performance Programme is supported by Sport Ireland and Sport NI.