As many of the field were getting their first look at the Royal Durban Golf Club ahead of the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa, 79 players battled it out for the final ten places in the opening event of the 2013 European Tour International Schedule as pre-qualifying took place just south of the city at Selborne Park Golf Club.
With 146 players already exempt – headlined by the likes of European Tour Champions Branden Grace, David Horsey and Pablo Larrazabal to name but a few – the final 156-man field was finalised at close of play in the 18-hole qualifier and the draw for Thursday and Friday’s opening rounds will be made on Wednesday morning.
Of the near-80 men competing for the ten coveted spots were a number of notable South African names including Attie Schwartzel, brother of 2011 Masters Tournament Champion Charl Schwartzel, two-time SA Open Champion and European Tour winner Wayne Westner, Anthony Michael, who finished tied second at the 2010 Alfred Dunhill Championship behind Spain’s Pablo Martin, and Danie van Tonder, who is the leading rookie on the South African Sunshine Tour this year.
Andrew Georgiou led the day at Selborne Park, where he shot 66 to claim the first of ten places available in this week's field.
“It’s good to be back in the thick of it. It’s my first time qualifying in a while and I knew that you’ve got nothing to lose when you qualify. That gives you a positive, aggressive mindset and that’s what got me through today,” he said.
The 26 year old has had a superb season on the Sunshine Tour, securing five top ten finishes and missing just two cuts throughout 2012. On Tuesday he found that form once again, finishing six below the card alongside Englishman Steve Surry.
“I started on the tenth and made three birdies through the first four holes, but then I dropped two shots before the turn. That just makes you push your mindset and you play more aggressive than before, and it paid off, because I shot 31 on my second nine,” said Georgiou.
Surry spent most of 2010 and 2011 playing on the Challenge Tour before moving across to the Sunshine Tour for the 2012 season where the 30 year old has had moderate success with a best result this year coming just two weeks ago at the Cape Town Open, where he finished tied 16th.
Schwartzel, Jacques Blaauw, Kevin Stone and Lindani Ndwandwe all shot 67 at Selborne with their five under par scores enough to see them straight into the event, ahead of a play-off for the final spots.
Seven players finished with scores of 68, but only four spots were available. Stefan Engell Andersen, Jacques van Tonder, Ben Mannix and Alan Michell claimed the last available places.