South Africa: Eagle and Birdies See Pfeifer Flying to IGT Challenge Lead

An eagle at his third hole of the day and a trio of birdies on the front nine at State Mines Country Club sent Michael Pfeifer hurtling straight to the top of affairs in the opening round of the IGT Challenge #11 on Monday.

The explosive opening salvo kept the German-born South African at the top of the pile and he held on to the lead with a first round five-under-par 67.

Only five more players managed to break par on a bitterly cold and windy day in Brakpan.

Pfeifer leads by one shot from Garth Wolter from Maccauvlei and is two shots clear of seasoned campaigner John McClean from Ireland. Gary Player Class of 2018 member Warric Dyers, Leon Vorster from North West and Peetie van der Merwe from Mpumalanga rounded out the top five on one-under 71.

Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigner Lejan Lewthwaite led the ladies on one-over 73.

Pfeifer backed up his eagle with a trio of birdies to turn five-under and cemented the lead with another gain directly after the turn.

'I'm really stoked to be leading after that fast start, because the putter cooled down a little down the back,' said Fancourt-based Pfeifer.

'I thinned my drive at the 3rd and finished in the first cut on the left. I cut a 7-iron in and boxed a 12-footer for eagle. I laid up over the bunker at 4th, hit a soft pitching-wedge to five foot and made the birdie putt.

'After a birdie at 7th, I made a big swinging putt at 8th for another birdie. I hit a soft 9-iron pin high right and drained a 25-foot left to right putt. But I did leave a few out there. I didn't birdie the last par-five (15th) and I missed three short birdie putts under 10 foot.

'At 18th, my tee shot finished in the trees on the left. I thought I could squeeze it through a gap in the trees, but it hit the tree and I had a long third shot in. I was happy to walk off with a bogey.'

Pfeifer learned his golf at Fancourt and pursued the game when the family moved to Germany. He then returned to South Africa to take his game to the next level.

'I played on the German Junior National Team in 2014/2015 and I knew then already that I wanted to play pro golf,' he said. 'That's the main reason why I came back to South Africa.

'You can only play competitive golf in Europe for five or six months on the mini-tours out there. Here I can play all year on great courses and longer courses, too. We also play different kinds of courses on the IGT Challenge Tour, so you get good experience in club and course management. It's a competitive circuit and I find the standard here much higher than in Germany.'

Pfeifer believes he is making the transition into the pro ranks the right way.

'I joined the IGT Challenge Tour end of last year and turned pro in May,' he said. 'I realised we earn world ranking points on the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour, so I made the switch about five months earlier than I planned but I'm happy about my decision.

'Over the last five months, my iron-game has improved dramatically. And my putting has vastly improved. That used to be the weakest link in my game, but I've been working with Mr Kramski at Fancourt and it is improving all the time.

'My main goal this season is to get more consistent. I want to finish in the top five more so I can experience that pressure more frequently. I've loving it out here.'

First Round Scores

All competitors SA unless otherwise specified; amateurs indicated as AMA

67 - Michael Pfeifer

68 - Garth Wolter

69 - John McClean (NIR)

71 - Warric Dyers, Leon Vorster, Peetie van der Merwe

72 - Leon van der Walt AMA, Bryce Myburgh, Patrick Thompson, Byron Sampson AMA, Clinton Grobler, Matthew Hands AMA, Ruan Korb

73 - Willie Olivier AMA, Paulo Serrao (POR), Keanu Pestana AMA, Shaun van Tonder, Lejan Lewthwaite

74 - Mitchell Lightfoot AMA, JP Rousseau AMA, Jack Duthie, Stefan Wears-Taylor

75 - Henning du Plooy AMA, Dean du Plessis AMA, Stephan Erasmus, Gary Daoust (BEL), Adrian Brabson AMA, Thabiso Ngcobo, Blain Sansom

76 - Jason Diab, Michael Kok, Ruhan van Dijk, Tiaan Greyvenstein AMA (AUS)

77 - Kyle Murphy AMA, Francois van Rensburg AMA, Dino Capazario AMA, Michael van Rooyen

78 - Tristan Brice AMA, David Rebelo, Gareth Sargent AMA, Hanish Nagrani (ZIM), Leon Visser

79 - Vickus Fleischman AMA, Jared Hall AMA, Kyle Opperman AMA, Marcus Smal AMA

80 - Jihwan Yeom AMA, Terence Mogapi, Quinton Coleman, Matthew Holland AMA, Alrich Labuschagne, Leslie Grandet (MDG), Luke Mayo AMA, Handre Truter AMA

81 - Stephan du Toit, Llewellyn Grobbelaar AMA, Michael Louth, Divan Marais

82 - Eric Nel, Lincon Cele, Marnus Barnard AMA

83 - Donneo Catanho AMA, Neville Mitchell AMA, Dominique Jacobs, Nicholas Souranis AMA

85 - Alwyn Smith, Tyler Johnston AMA, Andrej Skrbinsek AMA

86 - Bradley Diggeden AMA

90 - Louiz Pereira

98 - Dylan Morton AMA

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