Hennie Otto Takes Route 66 At Cape Town Open

Lyle Rowe was in a buoyant mood after a six-under-par 66 earned him a share of the first round lead at the R1,5-million Lion of Africa Cape Town Open, but it was co-leader Hennie Otto who had more reasons to smile on Thursday.  Anahita’s Otto and Rowe from the Eastern Province set the early mark and, as first round action wrapped up at Royal Cape Golf Club, their target remained unchallenged.  Otto was remarkable consistent as he reeled in three pairs of birdies at the first and second, fifth and sixth and 11th and 12th and drained a final birdie putt at the par-four 18th.

Coming off a tie for 21st on the European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship on Sunday, Otto completed his round in loops of 33 to join Rowe in pole position.  While most of the players in the 156-strong field would focus on their gains, the three-time European Tour winner had just only black mark on his card and it was the lone bogey at the 470 meter, par-four third that left Otto smiling.  Four weeks of hard graft with renowned coach Jamie Gough to correct his swing has made a world of difference to his game.

“Three weeks ago, my bogeys outnumbered my birdies in the World Golf Championship – HSBC Champions.  This is what we have been working towards and it’s really great to get off to this kind of start.  To shoot six-under in the first round is always good and I’ll take that score any day.  The key for Cape Town, and for coastal golf, is to manage the wind effectively,” he said.  Otto has been at it non-stop for 14 weeks and finished 46th in the Race to Dubai, but taking the week off was not an option.   “The opportunity to clinch the final spot into the Nedbank Golf Challenge next week, is too big to pass up.  I grew up watching the Million Dollar and I had to come out here and try to win.  It’s nice to get yourself in contention early in on, to give yourself a chance,” said the 38-year-old.

Rowe used four practice rounds to come to grips with the 6,235 meter layout and racked in five straight birdies from the fourth in the blustery conditions.  He rattled home three more birdies on the back nine to dip to eight under, but the 27-year-old Port Elizabeth golfer lost the advantage with back-to-back bogeys at 15 and 16.  Port Elizabeth’s Titch Moore, a two-time winner this season, top contender Danie Van Tonder and Omar Sandys are among the seven players lurking a shot of the pace.

Otto’s stable mates at Lumenrock Sport Management International had a day of mixed fortunes.  Zimbabwe’s Mark Williams returned a 69 to tie for 15th, while Vaughn Groenewald joined defending champion Tjaart Van Der Walt in the 15-man bus at one under 71.  Keith Horne was going along nicely, but a seven at the par-five 16th was the seven-time Sunshine Tour winner slip to joint 66th on one over 73.  Teboho Sefatsa, Louis De Jager and PH McIntyre registered respective rounds of 75, 78 and 81.

Photo: Hennie Otto
Photo credit: Petri Oeschger/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images