James Kingston, who plays predominantly in Asia and a two-time winner in his native South Africa last autumn, moved closer to his ultimate objective of qualifying for The European Tour when he opened up a two stroke halfway lead in the Bell’s South African Open at The Country Club in Durban.
The 35 year old from Rustenburg tagged a five under par 67 to his opening 66 for an 11 under par total of 133, two ahead of England’s Andrew Butterfield and Jonathan Lomas and three ahead of South Africans Martin Maritz and Tim Clark.
Kingston missed out on the chance to play in The European Tour Qualifying School last November after mis-reading the small print on the entry forms, but as an Affiliate Member of the Tour, he can go a long way to claiming his card with a high finish, or even a victory on Sunday.
He said: “Obviously I am trying to win on The European Tour and it was frustrating that I didn’t read the entry form as closely as I should have and missed out on that opportunity. But I feel this is a nice way to get my card rather than going to the Tour School.
“I didn’t perform as well as I can in European Tour events I entered last season, but I’m hoping to do a little better this time. Who know, with about ten events I get into, I could get my card that way. That’s my aim, but I’m not going to put any extra expectations on myself over the weekend. I am just going to play each shot as well as I can and if I get my card in the end, then so be it.”
With six birdies and one three-putt bogey, Kingston is in a strong position, leading the tournament and leaving Major Champions Retief Goosen (137), Paul Lawrie (138) and Ernie Els (142) in his wake. However he expects the big names to be in there with a chance come Sunday afternoon.
“They are all great players, but I am not playing against Retief, Ernie or Paul” he said. “I am playing against Durban Country Club and myself. As long as I keep that in mind then I really don’t care what they do.”
Butterfield, 29, from Chistlehurst in Kent, shot a second round 69 for 135 thanks mainly to a sharp short game. He said: "“ had 27 putts today and 25 yesterday. I think a good short game and good putting were the keys to my scores. I am never going to belt it out there, but I have learned to be satisfied with what I've got and to be more consistent.”
Holder of the seventh card from the Qualifying School Finals last November, Butterfield is seeking a good re-rank in May – unless, of course, he can pull off a victory and guarantee a two year exemption.
Lomas, meanwhile, birdied the last two holes on his way for a round of 67 which placed him alongside Butterfield. Now based in Scotland, he hopes to go one better than two years ago when he lost out to Colin Montgomerie in the Novotel Perrier Open de France after the former European Number One eagled two of the last five holes.
Maritz, 24, produced the comeback of the week. In Thursday’s first round he stood four over par after nine holes, but recovered with four birdies for a level par 72. This time he collected eight birdies in a 64 to move up the leaderboard when a missed cut looked a more likely outcome.
“I told myself I had better start playing or I was going home” he admitted. “I turned it around with four birdies coming home and made eight more today. Now I am going to try to win this week or next and establish myself on The European Tour.”
Goosen, chasing his first Bell’s South African Open title, shot a round of 70 assisted by a chip-in eagle three at the 14th. Lawrie, playing alongside the reigning US Open Champion, also carded a 70 to be one stroke behind his partner.
Goosen said: “Tomorrow is an important day – it’s moving day. If I can shoot in the sixties and the wind stays as it is, then maybe I can move up a few spots.”