England’s Ryan Evans used inspiration from 18-time Major Champion Jack Nicklaus as he posted a blistering ten under par round of 62 to take a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Dimension Data Pro-Am.
The Englishman carded 11 birdies and a single bogey to lead by one from five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey at Fancourt Golf Estate as both men took full advantage of their early starts on the Outeniqua course, traditionally the most scoreable circuit at the venue.
The 34-year-old recently spent time with 18-time Major Champion and former World Number One Nicklaus at his home in Florida and, since the impromptu meeting, Evans has a different outlook on his profession.
“I asked him ‘what would be your favourite ever golf course?’ and he said: ‘I loved every single golf course I played’,” Evans said.
“He said you have to go to every event and love every venue because you’re there to win, there’s no point complaining about conditions or complaining about the state of the course because every course you go to is the best course you’re going to play. Again, I just went out there and said, ‘let’s enjoy what I do and play some golf’.
“There’s definitely a smile back on my face compared to the last couple of weeks so I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.
“I know my game isn’t far away and over the last couple of weeks there were parts of it that were really good and parts of it that were off. It’s just a case of putting it all together, like a jigsaw.”
Evans, who graduated from the European Challenge Tour in 2017, admits he went back to basics in his approach to today’s opening round after a tough period on the course and he reaped the rewards by posting his career low round to par in George.
“It was great fun,” he said. “Obviously when you play well and make a few putts, the game is very enjoyable. I haven’t really been enjoying it the last few weeks so it was nice to put a smile on my face.
“I had a chat with a friend yesterday and I said that I felt like I was taking bad results into the next week and he said: ‘just let it go, why did you start playing golf as a kid?’ and I said: ‘because I loved it’ and he told me to just go out there and love the game.
“I didn’t expect to go out and shoot a low score but I just went out there with the mentality of I’m here to just enjoy what I do and play golf. Fortunately enough, I had a great round.”
England’s Daniel Gavins occupies third place following an opening eight under par round of 64, while Scotland’s Craig Howie, Frenchman Mathieu Fenasse and South Africa's Merrick Bremner sit in a tie for fourth place on seven under par.
Seven players share seventh place on six under par, including England’s Matthew Baldwin who is the highest placed player to have teed it up on the Montagu course on day one.
The second round will begin at 7:15am local time on Friday May 7, with those who teed it up on the Outeniqua course on day one taking on the Montagu and vice versa. Evans will play alongside countryman Gavins and Denmark’s Nicolai Kristensen at 12:05pm on the Montagu.