13th July 2022 | Big Easy Tour
Mazibuko battles neck injury to co-lead in Soweto
Makhetha Mazibuko battled through a niggling neck injury to shoot an opening round of four-under-par 68 to co-lead by one in the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament held at Soweto Country Club.
“Four-under is a good score,” said an elated Mazibuko, “because I didn’t think I’d finish the round because I have a neck injury I picked up during the pro-am. I thought I played well on the first nine until I dropped 17 and 18.”
Mazibuko started from the 10th where he made par. He dropped on 11, his second, but recovered with a birdie on the next three holes. A par on 15 preceded a birdie before back-to-back bogeys made it onto Mazibuko’s card.
A solid run on the back nine yielded three straight pars for the Bloemfontein Golf Club player as Mazibuko battled to keep the big numbers from his card. Then, he found joy on the fourth hole, making a welcome birdie there. That was followed by two more – on six and eight – as Mazibuko went bogey-free on that stretch.
“I love this course but I don’t play it as often as I would like,” added Mazibuko who is a member of the recently-launched Sunshine Tour Transformation initiative known as the Papwa Sewgolum Transformation Class. “I play here sometimes with Thabang (Simon) on weekends and I think it’s a tough course. I know where the dangers are. But overall, I think it was all about driving the ball well and being smart with the approach shots.
“The main thing here is to hit good tee shots but I was a little bit aggressive on some holes. The lesser the distance you have, the better. And my putting was good too, so I think I played well.”
Mazibuko ties the top spot with fellow member of the Papwa Sewgolum Class, Jacquin Hess, Gerard Pepler and Noel Anderson after they all shot 68s.
“It was fun out there,” said Pepler, “I had a nice chip-in on hole 13 which turned things around for me and from there I just made some putts. The key is to go with the flow, which I will do in the second round. My putting and my driving were solid today. I hit a lot of fairways and made some good putts. We finished well and we go again on day two.”
The Papwa Sewgolum Class of 2022/23 is created to drive transformation and allow for greater inclusion. The programme offers players of colour greater opportunities to compete on the Sunshine Tour and Altron Big Easy Tour through the expanded schedules and increased prize money offered on both these tours and with monthly financial assistance towards their tournament golf expenses, including their tournament entry fees.
The Transformation Class which comprises 61 Black professionals had a few other representatives in the top 10 leading players after round one as Siyanda Mwandla’s three-under 69 earned him a share of fifth with veteran Ryan Tipping while the trio of Irvin Mazibuko, Franklin Manchest and Evans Vukeya find themselves in a six-way share of the seventh spot after rounds of 70.
“This is no mickey mouse course,” said Mwandla after his round, “so I am happy with my start. I putted well and that helped a lot. I’ve been playing well and it’s all to do with hard work. My coach and I have been working on a few things and I can see them coming together. But it’s a process, a long road and it won’t come together overnight. But I am happy with where I am.”
The Big Easy Tour was founded in 2011 with support from Ernie Els and counts current international star Christiaan Bezuidenhout among its former Order of Merit winners.