Andi Dill got off to a flying start at Centurion Country Club on Monday to lead the fifth Race to Q-School on the IGT Challenge Tour.
The 28-year-old Country Club Johannesburg golfer compiled an opening five-under-par 67 to take the top spot on a jam-packed leaderboard. He lead by two from Clinton Grobler, Pieter Kruger and amateur Ruan Groenewald, with a further eight players a further shot back.
Dill has been splitting his time this season between the South Africa's premier golf development circuit and the Mena Tour in the Middle East.
Having closed out the season abroad with a 43rd place ranking and his card for 2017 secured, Dill intends to compete in all the remaining IGT Challenge Tour events to prepare for the 2018 Sunshine Tour Qualifying School next March.
'Competing on the Mena Tour has been excellent experience and I learned a lot from playing regularly at top class golf courses against good international players,' said Dill. 'The results weren't always the best, but I did enough to keep my card for next season.
'During the Tour Championships two weeks ago I had a disappointing third round, but overall I really felt as if the game was coming into form. I felt it was around the corner, so to finally put together a solid round is very fulfilling.'
Dill bogeyed the short third, but he wiped the slate clean with a birdie at the fifth. Back-to-back birdies at eight and nine took him to the turn in two under and he racked up further gains at 10, 12 and 14 to shoot to the top of the pile.
'It was a bit of a strange round, because I didn't feel like I was hitting the ball particularly well, but I scored well,' he said. 'I stuck to my game-plan and it paid off.
'I took the approach of focusing just on my own game and my own tactics and that worked to my benefit. I got off to a sluggish start with two pars and a soft bogey on the third, but then put together a nice run that included chip-in's at five and 12.
'Going into the next two rounds, I have no expectations. I'm just going to carry on with more of what I did today and see where it takes me.'
The group in the bus at two-under includes in-form Philip Geert Ruan Groenewald and Race to Q-School Order of Merit leader Estiaan Conradie, among others.
Conradie won his fifth IGT Challenge Tour title at in the first tournament of the 18-event Race to Q-School series at The Els Club Copperleaf. The 20-year old Wingate Park rookie followed with a runner-up finish in the second event at Pecanwood and tied for sixth in the third at Ruimsig.
Meanwhile Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigner Lejan Lewthwaite and amateurs Azelia Meichtry from Switzerland and Tshwane's Catherine Lau also joined the action at Centurion. All three players opened with rounds of 75.
First Round Scores
All competitors SA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA:
67 - Andi Dill
69 - Clinton Grobler, Ruan Groenewald AMA, Pieter Kruger
70 - Estiaan Conradie, Marco de Beer, Teagan Moore, Michael Steyn, Teboho Sefatsa, Philip Geerts (ITA), Juan Langeveld, Conway Kunneke
71 - Ruan Conradie, Divan Marais, Keelan van Wyk AMA, Patrick Thompson, Marthin Scheepers
72 - Michael Schutz, David Mofokeng (LSO), Theunis Bezuidenhout AMA, Matt Bright, Luke Trocado, Tertius van den Berg, Rudolph van de Venter AMA
73 - Bryce Myburgh, Jonathan Waschefort, Quintin Crause, Paulo Serrao AMA (POR), Wayne du Toit, Maritz Wessels, Makhetha Mazibuko, Phillip Kruse AMA, Toto Thimba Jnr, John McClean (NIR), Hendrikus Stoop AMA
74 - Luke Brown AMA, Heinrich Penzhorn AMA, Andrew Carlsson AMA, Duane Keun, Paul Boshoff, Bennie van der Merwe, Roberto Lupini, Albert Visser
75 - Azelia Meichtry AMA, Lejan Lewthwaite, Catherine Lau AMA, Albert Venter, Jack Duthie, Duan Nagel AMA, Michael Dreyer, Ruan Korb, Eric Nel AMA, Johan van der Wath
76 - Benjamin Follett-Smith (ZIM), Tristan Webel AMA, NJ van der Walt AMA, Jason Ackerman AMA, Shaun van Tonder, Jason Reynolds AMA, Donald Makhafola AMA, Basil Wright, Andre Pistorius
77 - Mae Cornforth, Luke Kelly, Gary Jutzen AMA, Gareth Anderson AMA, Peetie van der Merwe AMA, Jason Roets
78 - Tudor Bismark (ZIM), Louis Albertse AMA, Jay Fourie, Hanro Kilian AMA, Thabi Ngcobo, Divan de Villiers AMA, Michael Kok AMA, Songezo Sonamzi, Dylan Morton AMA
79 - Marcus Smal AMA, Eric Park (KOR)
80 - Valentin Graus (NLD), Cameron Gunning, Phumlani Maluka AMA, Matthew Rossouw AMA, Dennis Williams AMA
81 - Allen Jirek AMA (CZ), Jade Buitendag, Adrian Brabson AMA, Ryan Wingrove AMA
83 - Werner van Wyk
86 - Bryce Webel AMA
87 - Charles Bates AMA, Victor Kau
90 - Tiaan Greyvenstein AMA (AUS)
101 - Phillip de Waal