PRETORIA — MENA Tour regular Matias Calderon shot a solid five-under 67 to lie two shots off the pace after the opening round of The Roar, the third and final co-sanctioned event with the Sunshine Big Easy Tour, at Waterkloof Golf Club, on Tuesday.
Starting on the 10th tee, the Chilean picked up four shots in his last eight holes after making the turn at one under to move into a five-way for fourth as Kenya’s Stefan Engell Andersen and South African duo Daniel Hammond and JJ Senekal carded matching 67s to set the early pace.
Bolstered by an eagle at the par-five seventh, Cyril Suk, the winner of the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open in 2014, returned a 68 for a share of ninth, one clear of a nine-man group which included three MENA Tour members —Fredrik From, Antonio Costa and Jamie Elson.
“I’m very, very chuffed,” said Hammond. “I hit the ball really good the whole day; made a few clutch-putts coming in, but unfortunately bogeyed my second last hole. I missed a little five-footer but I’m overall very happy for the day,” he added.
Senekal, who went bogey-free, was equally pleased with his day’s work. “Today, not a lot of mistakes off the tee,” he said.
“I think I hit 15 greens. The confidence has been high on the Sunshine Tour the whole year. I’m just trying to bring that here and try to show the boys that I can play golf and that I’m out here for one thing; and that’s to win.
“Obviously, getting through the qualifiers was the first step, got that right. And from here on it’s just to win and go home and go have some holiday,” Senekal said.
Meanwhile, rising MENA Tour star Arkesh Bhatia, who opened with a 70, produced the highlight of the day as he holed his approach to the 12th for an eagle two and followed it with five birdies in his last six holes, the late birdie blitz propelling the Dubai-based prodigy to second in the amateur division, just two back of South Africa’s Karabo Mokoena.
Elsewhere, Craig Hinton, the winner of the MENA Tour’s Order of Merit title, and his fellow Englishmen Craig Kieswetter and Jordan Garnish were tied for 38th along with nine others after signing for matching 71s on a day when 48 players broke par.
An initiative of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, the MENA Tour was created in 2011 with the aim of developing golf in the region. It is affiliated to R&A, the worldwide golf governing body based in the home of golf, St Andrews, and the Arab Golf Federation and enjoys the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) status.
A guaranteed spot on the PGA Tour’s 2018 DEAN & DELUCA Invitational (for the MENA Tour champion), multiple European Tour starts, including the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Hassan II Trophy, Maybank Championship Malaysia, and the KLM Open, are some of the added incentives that await MENA Tour members, in addition to playing privileges on the Sunshine Tour, and exemptions into the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour Q-Schools.