JC Ritchie, who turned 28 today, carded a nine under par opening round of 61 at Mount Edgecombe Country Club on his way to setting a new course record, which included a hole in one at the par three second hole.
The South African is seeking back-to-back wins after successfully defending his Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open title last week. He got off to a flying start at Durban’s Mount Edgecombe Country Club, carding five birdies and an eagle in addition to his ace at the par three second hole, holing out from 213 yards with a five iron to top off his record-breaking 28th birthday.
The nine-time Sunshine Tour winner’s nearest challenger is fellow countryman Rupert Kaminski, who started with a seven under par round of 63. Australian Blake Windred, Belgium’s Christopher Mivis and South Africans MJ Viljoen, Trevor Jnr Fisher and Jbe Kruger all share third place on six under par.
“Today was probably one of the best ball striking rounds I’ve had in my life,” said Ritchie. “I don’t remember ever having that much control on a golf course and to have a hole-in-one on my birthday is pretty awesome.
“I have been hitting my irons really nicely for the last year but last weekend was probably the worst I have hit the ball since I got my new irons but I managed to win. I think it may have been a combination of my nerves and the wind but I decided to do some work coming into this week and today was just really special.”
Ritchie believes his conservative approach was vital to his record-breaking round and, with the tournament played over two venues in Durban, he is looking to adopt a similar strategy tomorrow at Durban Country Club as he aims to extend his lead.
“I didn’t look at the scoreboards before I teed off and I sort of just closed my eyes and took what the golf course gave me and today it was very generous,” he said. “I kept hitting the ball in good spots to give myself realistic chances and I didn’t try and attack the pins. I missed lots of birdie chances in the middle of my round but watching Jbe Kruger hole putts gave me confidence and I holed that eagle putt on 14 which kicked everything into gear.
“Durban Country Club is sneaky,” he added. “I am going to respect it as much as I can but hopefully the ball striking stays where it is and I can just stick to my game plan to give myself lots of chances.”
Ritchie was not the only man to record a hole-in-one on day one. David Ravetto aced the par-three 12th hole at Durban Country Club to win himself a seven-night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch.
Round two of the Jonsson Workwear Open will get under way at 6:50am local time, with Ritchie teeing it up at 7:30am alongside Kruger and Englishman Jonathan Thomson at Durban Country Club.