Australia took pole position at the inaugural World Cup of Disabled Golf after the experienced skipper, Geoff Nicholas, put the side in control with a superb even-par 72 at Zebula Golf Estate and Spa on Wednesday. Shane Luke added an 82 for a total of 154, while Graham Kenyon contributed a non-counting 90. The leaders have a six shot cushion on South Africa, while pre-tournament favourites Canada lag 12 shots off the pace.
Local heroes Daniel Slabbert and Reinard Schuhknecht returned respective rounds of 78 and 82, while Conrad Stoltz signed for 95. Newly-minted Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open champion Josh Williams returned an 80, while team mate Bob McDermott added an 86 to put the Canadians in third on 166. England finished two shots back on 182, while the USA finished a shot ahead of Sweden on 184.
The day belonged to Nicholas, who reeled in four birdies on the front nine to turn in two, and managed to offset bogeys at the 11th, 14th and 16th with a lone birdie at 13 on the back nine. “The course a trifle long for an old man like me, especially off the back tees. The younger guys are hitting it 100 meters past me, but I still enjoyed myself. I hit a lot of shots that weren’t that great, but I got away with it. I sunk a few putts, and that made the difference. I fell away a bit on the back nine, but I’m quite happy with a 72,” said the 52-year old Cronulla. Unlike most of the participants, the 12-time World Amputee golf champion relished the pace of the undulating greens.
“The greens are similar to the ones I play on at home. They are running very fast, though, but they run true. A few putts got away from me, but I enjoyed the pace. I’m used to playing in the wind, so it didn’t really affect me, but I could see the gusting wind bothered a few guys. It’s a terrific course, but you have to hit it straight around here or the numbers add up quickly,” he said. Schuhknecht, who turned in two over, knows all about big numbers at Zebula. “I made a double bogey at the 10th and that started a downward spiral. I took driver or three-wood where I didn’t need to. If you go offline just a little, you can pay a pretty hefty price, like the seven I made on 14. I need to relook my course management, because if you keep it in play around here, you can make pick up the odd birdie,” the 21-year old moaned.
Three-time Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open champion Slabbert reeled in three birdies, but dropped nine shots to finish six over. “It was better, but I’m still battling with my swing. Reinard was playing ahead of me and I could see him struggling, too. We need to do better. One of us needs to go low to give the team a chance to win the World Cup,” he said. Canada’s Williams was hopeful that the worst round was behind him, “I drove the ball well, but I just didn’t score well. It was quite frustrating because I really should have been around the 72 mark. We are not that far behind, so if we can get it going on Thursday, we could still give these guys a run for their money.”
First Round Leaderboard (Teams)
154 – Australia (Geoff Nicholas 72; Shane Luke 82)
160 – South Africa (Daniel Slabbert 78; Reinard Schuhknecht 82)
166 – Canada (Josh Williams 80; Bob McDermott 86)
180 – New Zealand (Jason Eade 90; Waybe Eder 90)
182 – England (Andy Gardiner 90; Darren Grey 92)
First Round Leaderboard (Individual)
72 Geoff Nicholas (AUS)
78 Daniel Slabbert (RSA)
80 Josh Williams (CAN)
82 Shane Luke (AUS)
82 Reinard Schuhknecht (RSA)
Photo: Three-time Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open champion Daniel Slabbert led the South African challenge in the first round at the inaugural World Cup of Disabled Golf at Zebula Golf Estate and Spa
Photo credit Carl Fourie