South Africa’s Louis Albertse’s superb seven-under-par 65 gave him the first-round lead in the FBC Zimbabwe Open at Royal Harare Golf Club on Thursday.
Fresh from a solid top 10 finish in the opening tournament of the Sunshine Tour’s 2022-23 season, the Lombard Insurance Classic at Arabella Country Club last week, Albertse made an impressive six birdies on the front nine.
After his first blemish on the 10, Albertse sunk birdies on the 12 and 14th before dropping another shot on the par-five 16th.
He however finished solidly with a birdie on the 18th to take the solo lead ahead of Herman Loubser, who followed up his maiden Sunshine Tour win at the Lombard Insurance Classic by firing a bogey-free round of six-under-par 66 at Chapman Golf Club, the other course being used for the tournament.
The highest-placed Zimbabwean golfer in the field is Simon Katembenuka after he carded a solid round of three-under-par 69 to move into a tie for eighth position and within four shots of the lead held by Albertse.
Katembenuka, a 34-year-old seasoned teaching professional, who runs the popular Prices Golf Range in Mount Pleasant was in fine form as he turned back the years with a fine round at Royal Harare.
He showed mental fortitude to remain in early contention as he did not get to the best of starts after a bogey on the par-four opening hole, before recovering with a birdie on the long par-five third hole.
Another bogey on the par-three fifth threatened to derail his charge, but Katembenuka was able to tap into his experience by managing three more birdies on the eighth, 11th and 16 before holding par in the last two rounds.
The soft-spoken golfer, who played his round alongside seasoned South Africans JJ Senekal and Jake Redman, who are both winners on the Sunshine Tour said it was a good learning experience for him.
“I’m happy I managed to hold it together in the end. I played with two top guys on the Sunshine Tour so I learned one or two things from them during the round. Tomorrow I will be playing my second round at Chapman which is a different story and we will see how it goes,” Katembenuka said.
Katembenuka will start the second round at Chapman Golf Club, four strokes behind the lead held by Albertse.
Top Zambian professional Madalitso Muthiya is in a tie for third with South African Keegan Thomas on five-under-par 65.
Home favourite Ryan Cairns opened his campaign with a one-under-par 71 at Royal Harare Golf Club and is tied for position 22 with Bulawayo Golf Club professional Brian Gondo, who carded the same score at Chapman.
Also on a tie for 22 is the 15-year-old Zimbabwe junior golf sensation Keegan Shutt, who showed maturity beyond his years with a solid opening round by carding 71 at Chapman Golf Club.
Benjamin Follet-Smith carded a level par round of 72 at Chapman while Robson Chinhoi will have some work to do in the opening round after a two-over-par 74 at Royal.
The second-round action will be underway at both Royal Harare Golf Club and Chapman Golf Club on Friday morning.
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