Bryanston’s Matt Vogel walked off the course at Irene Country Club with a beaming grin and you really couldn’t blame the guy for smiling. A six-under-par 66 would light up anyone’s day, but it was a particularly pleasing round for Vogel, who tied for third with CJ du Plessis on day one of the Irene Championship.
“About the same time last year I led the first round after nine holes here at Irene and I remembered that day when I got to the 12th hole,” Vogel laughed. “When I saw my name at the top of the leaderboard, I went into complete panic stations and I ended up shooting seven over on the back nine.”
This time around, the 25-year-old capitalised on an eagle start at the par four first. He reeled in five birdies to offset a lone bogey at 14 and he finished two behind sixth-season Sunshine Tour campaigner Derik Ferreira and one behind fellow IGT Tour player Duane Keun.
Ferreira blistered the front nine in 30 strokes and mixed four birdies with two bogeys on the inward loop to sign for a 64, while Keun dropped just one shot on his way to an opening 65. Du Plessis could have grabbed a share of the lead with eight birdies, but spoiled his chances with a double bogey at the par four 11th.
Sunshine Ladies Tour rookie Carrie Park and Nobuhle Dlamini from Swaziland also joined the action at Irene. Park – coming straight off the back of an eighth place finish in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Final on Saturday – fired a 69 to tie for 13th while Dlamini, who finished seventh, dipped into red figures with a 71.
Vogel said Michael Palmer helped him to conquer his panic demon. “Mike won four times on the IGT Tour last year before he graduated to the IGT Tour,” Vogel said. “He was forever on my case about my mental game. I used to get ahead of myself and then I would start to panic and he kept telling me to stay in the moment and stick to my process.
“It’s quite frustrating when you match a guy shot-for-shot, but he’s the one winning and pulling in the top 10 finishes. But all his nagging rubbed off on me, because I’ve learned to play shot-for-shot and not to think about anything else. I’ve conquered some big demons on the IGT Tour in the past year, but today I realised how much progress I’ve made.”
Vogel has been working with former professionals Hendrik Buhrmann and Martin du Toit at the BDGA Academy and he was excited to see the effort pay off at Irene. “I know the course well and I knew that if I gave myself chances, I could make some birdies,” he said.
“I drove the ball and I hit my wedges really well. All my par putts were inside three feet and I only hit the one bad shot all day. I could have been in real trouble after I drove it left into the river at 14, but I got myself back on the fairway and hit a great wedge. I walked off with bogey, but a year ago that would easily have been a triple or worse.”
Vogel spent four years pursuing a Professional Golf Management degree with a Bachelor of Business Administration at the University of Central Oklahoma. He graduated in May 2013 and joined the country’s premier development Tour later that year.
“When I first started playing on the IGT Tour, my stroke average was just under 80,” he said. “At the end of 2015 it sitting at 75.11 and right now it’s near 72. It’s really pleasing to see my name among a bunch of Sunshine Tour pros because that means my game is moving in the right direction. “The standard on the IGT Tour keeps getting higher and I need to keep improving. That’s why I don’t think about winning. My only aim is to keep on improving and to break 72 before the next Sunshine Tour Q-School.”
FIRST ROUND SCORES
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as (AMA):
64 – Derik Ferreira
65 – Duane Keun
66 – CJ du Plessis, Matthew Vogel
67 – Ruan Huysamen NAM, Zachary Portemont USA, Andre De Decker, Marc Cayeux (ZIM)
68 – Russel Franz, Juan Swart, Stuart Smith BOT, Pieter Kruger
69 – Matt Wollman (AMA) ZIM, Breyten Meyer, Conway Kunneke, Damian Naicker, Carrie Park, Eddie Taylor
70 – Drikus Van der Walt, Francois Coetzee, Dayne Moore ZAM, Eric Nel (AMA), Simon Kruger, Michael Schutz (AMA), Anton Haig, Jaco Prinsloo, Johnathan Agren SWE, Matthew Spacey, Juan Langeveld, Paul De Beer
71 – Quintin Crause (AMA), David Ashley ENG, Steven Van Heerden, Terence Boardman, Werner Van Niekerk, Michael Kok (AMA), Armandt Scholtz, Calvin Pearson, Andi Dill, Gideon Pienaar, Lejan Lewthwaite, Nobuhle Dlamini SWZ
72 – Matthew Adams (AMA), Thriston Lawrence, Coert Groenewald, Neal Herman, Teagan Moore, Irvin Mazibuko, Dean O’Riley, Louis Taylor, Maverick Faber (AMA) FRA, Alex Van Heerden (AMA), Teboho Sefatsa, Jeff Inglis ENG, Mark Murless
73 – Hilton Hughes (AMA), Marco De Beer (AMA), CJ Levey, Arno Pretorius (AMA)
74 – Hendrikus Stoop (AMA), Tyron Mc Comb, Leon Visser (AMA)
75 – Lourens Du Plessis, Jabulane Mabilane, Norman Beggs, Dylan O’Leary, Wayne du Toit, Jonathan Waschefort, Cameron Esau, Michelle Leigh, Tumie Motale, Francesca Cuturi, Cameron Gunning, Stephan De Beer, John McClean NIR
76 – Armand Azar (AMA), Brendan Blake (AMA), Ruhan Van Dijk (AMA), Niel Theron (AMA), Altaaf Bux, Ruan Korb (AMA), Romano Saincic, Shane Heckler (AMA), Elvis Sithebe, Ryan Wingrove (AMA), Jacques De Villiers, Wayne Stroebel, Marais Visagie
77 – Werner Van Wyk, Walter Behr (AMA), Owen Grobler, Frans Strydom
78 – Amerigo Renieri (AMA), Tristan Nel (AMA), Jordan Parsons (AMA), Bryce McCabe, Johary Raveloarison MDG Michael Petersen, Nyasha Muyambo ZIM
79 – Bryce Myburgh, Brendan Britten NAM, Dwayne Coetzee, Hanko Bothma, Phillip Montgomery, Igor Milicic (SRB), Stephane Van Neer (AMA) COD, Shaun van Tonder, Thabang Simon
80 – WM Coetzee (AMA)
81 – Ruan Botha, Marc De Jager (AMA), Neville Mitchell (AMA), Justin Godfrey
82 – Jacques De Villiers (AMA)
83 – Wian Gagiano (AMA), Sam Metcalfe (AMA), Heinrich Stoop (AMA)
85 – Liam Bezuidenhout (AMA)
87 – Schalk Du Plessis (AMA)
88 – Barend Swanepoel
90 – Duan Nagel (AMA)
With thanks to Lali Stander and SAGA