Lasalarie, Macnab set SAJI pace
France’s Alexandre Lasalarie fired a brilliant five-under-par 67 to take the first round lead in the 106-strong Boys Division on day one of the Curro South African Juniors International (SAJI) on Tuesday, while South Africa’s Caitlyn Macnab leads the 42-strong Girls Division in the 54-hole Global Golf Junior Tour strokeplay event at Durbanviile Golf Club.
“I was happy with my round because I didn’t putt well, but I made two eagles on the front nine and played the four par 5s at four-under,” said Lasalarie.
“I let myself down on the four par threes by going three-over. My approach shots to the greens were good without finding the putting surface. I found difficult situations and paid the price. Overall, I’m feeling good about things. The course is in great nick; the fairways have a lot of run on them due to the dryness and the greens are running fast and true.
“My goal tomorrow is to take the right clubs for all the shots and try and limit the error count as best I can. To lead the tournament in such a strong field is really cool, but we still have another 36 holes to play.”
Lasalarie made a par start before eagling the par-four second to go with a birdie at the next and was well on his way to something special. But for bogeys at the first two par 3s, he would have been well clear of the chasing pack headed by defending champion Garrick Higgo of Boland, Samuel Simpson of Western Province and Wilco Nienaber of the Free State, who also posted rounds of 69.
The Frenchman offset those two dropped shots with an eagle and a birdie at the two par 5s and without any further bogeys, posted an outward loop of four-under 32. He made two straight pars before dropping a shot at the par-three 12th, but picked up two further birdies without any more drops for an inward loop of two-under 35.
Boland’s Higgo, 17, was more than happy with his morning’s work.
“Being the defending champion brings added pressure,” he said. “To be able to shoot 69 and be well in touch with the leader is awesome. I play to win every time I compete and I’ve got another two days to stake a claim for the sought-after title in an event that is the biggest of its kind in the world.
“I felt comfortable throughout the round. I picked up two birdies in my first three holes and four in total with only one bogey, so no complaints although I need to tighten up here and there in that I was having to scramble for pars more often than I would have liked.”
The De Zalze Golf Club member is one of the strong candidates to make the International Team to compete in the inaugural Junior Presidents Cup on home soil in September.
“To make the side would be awesome and as things stand I’m in the hunt for a place,” Higgo said.
Simpson, who won the Durbanville Junior Open earlier this year, hits the ball a mile for such small fellow. He was stoked with his effort in far more testing conditions in the afternoon session.
“The goal before the tournament was to play it safe, and that’s exactly what I did,” said the 14-year-old Bellville Golf Club member. “Miss the fairways on this course and it will bite you and end all your hopes of success.
“I went the conservative route and got rewarded. I enjoyed the chip-in at 12 and I ended up with five birdies and two bogeys. The same approach on Wednesday for sure with a bit more emphasis placed on making the good shots count with gains.”
Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate’s Macnab leads the South African charge through 18, thanks to a fine four-under-par 68.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be leading the tournament; something that’s never happened to me before,” said the 15-year-old from Johannesburg. “I struck the ball well off the tee box throughout but missed a number of fairways which complicated matters.
“My new wedge was hot today and I was able to hang in tough and make saves to go with gains. And I found no bunkers which aided my cause. I ended up making seven birdies and three bogeys, so overall little to complain about.
“Tomorrow is a new experience. Got to say what a thrill it is to have 18 countries competing. It affords us locals the chance to meet and make new friends with girls and boys from overseas while measuring our skill sets. I’ll be gunning for a better round if the wind stays away and I cut out the little mistakes that pop up every now and again.”
Australia’s Jihye Park was three shots off the pace in second place after a one-under 71.
“What a wonderful experience to be in such a beautiful city and then to play on such a lovely course,” she said. “I love that they call it Jewel of the North; it makes being here that much more special.
“I think I could have done better. My short game and my putting on mint greens was on point to offset my trials and tribulations with the driver in hand. I got an eagle on a par five at the sixth hole but no fond memories of the triple-bogey seven on 14, one I mucked up big time.”
Defending champion Woo Ju-Son of Country Club Johannesburg signed for an even-par 70 to share third spot with Italy’s Greta Minetto and SA’s Kiera Ford.
“What a nightmare start,” said Son. “I made a bogey, bogey start and was three-over through four holes and thought I was on my way to an 85. But I was able to steady the ship with three birdies on the next four holes. From then on only two more bogeys to go with three more birdies. I’m well in the hunt and look forward to the next two rounds.”