Putter change puts Naidoo in charge at Players

SA Amateur Stroke Play ChampionshipsSUN CITY, 6 February 2015 – KwaZulu-Natal’s Basil Naidoo said he felt confident about his game ahead of the prestigious Player’s Championship and not surprisingly, the Greater Durban golfer leads the first round at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City on Friday.

Fresh from a victory in the Free State Senior Open, Naidoo carded an opening two-over-par 74 to finish one stroke clear of Ekurhuleni’s Mark O’Brien.

Reigning Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Amateur Stroke Play champion Mellette Hendrikse is two off the pace in joint third alongside former champions Gavin van Aswegen and Jock Wellington, and Lynton Beckett from KwaZulu-Natal.

Maritzburg’s Morgan Philips and Zwartkop senior Robin Ashby carded rounds of 77 to tie for seventh.

The fourth edition of the annual limited field championship has been extended to 54 holes and Hendrikse, the current number one ranked senior in the country, is confident that he can come back strong over the weekend.

“I had a just one birdie against three drops over the front nine, but I managed to find the hole a couple of times on the back nine,” the 54-year-old Akasia golfer said after an up-and-down day.

“I’m two off the pace, so it will take a bit of doing, but I’m definitely going to shift gears on the weekend.”

Naidoo switched from a belly putter to the conventional model in November and notched a third place finish in the season-opening Gauteng North Senior Open last month. A fortnight later, the country’s third ranked senior claimed his first podium finish of the season at Oppenheimer Golf Club.

The 57-year-old birdied the first and second holes and reeled in two more to negate a bogey at the par-four third. He reached the turn in 33, but couldn’t match his fast start on the tricky back nine of the Gary Player-designed championship layout.

He erased a bogey at the 11th with a birdie at the par-five 1th, but four successive drops from the 15th saw Naidoo complete the loop in 41 strokes.

O’Brien from State Mines traded a birdie at the fourth for bogey at the eighth and dropped two more shots coming home for his 75.

The evergreen Wellington turned three over, but was flawless on the back nine and shaved two shots off his deficit with birdies at the 14th and 16th.

For the first round scores and live scoring, click HERE

PHOTO – Basil Naidoo leads the first round of the prestigious 2015 Players’ Championship; credit Catherine Kotze / SASPA.