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Zimbabwe’s Mathew Bramford takes lead at Africa Amateur Golf Championship

MALELANE, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 21: Matthew Bramford of Zimbabwe tees off during day one of the Africa Amateur Championship and Amateur Women's Invitational at Leopard Creek Country Club on February 21, 2024 in Malelane, South Africa. (Photo by Octavio Passos/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Matthew Bramford shot a superb bogey-free 65 to take the lead in the Africa Amateur Championship on seven-under-par after the first day’s play at Leopard Creek.

An eagle on the par-4 6th was the highlight of the front nine for 19-year-old Bramford, who recently moved to South Africa to attend golf school at Bramble Hill and has committed to playing college golf with Friends University in Kansas.

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A prolific back nine featured back-to-back birdies on the 10th and 11th and then three consecutive birdies through the 14th, 15th and 16th holes rounded off a fantastic performance which clearly exceeded his expectations.

“I came here to Leopard Creek really just wanting to shoot par,” said Bramford.

“It’s such a tough golf course and obviously I exceeded my expectations today. It’s a fun course to play when you’re hitting the ball quite straight. I think it’s always nice to get off to a good start as it’s never as fun fighting back. I’m definitely happy with the round and looking forward to the rest of the Championship.”

The Zimbabwean holds a one-shot advantage over South Africa’s Ivan Verster, who carded a 66 in glorious, but hot and demanding weather conditions, to finish the first round in second place on six-under-par. 

“I’m just pleased to get out of the sun. It’s an absolute scorcher out there today,” said Verster.

“I’m happy with my round and I putted really nicely. My putting has been a bit up and down in the last couple of months so to get a few birdies rolling in is really nice. I think the birdie on the second was the most pleasing. I hit the second shot just short of the green, then hit it about ten foot past, but made the putt.

“A round like that gives you big confidence and to shoot 66 on this course on any day is a good score. I knew I had a good chance at shooting a low one today. There’s still 54 holes left though, so anything can happen, but it’s a good start to the week for me.”

A South African quartet, including Simon du Plooy, Jordan Burnand, Daniel Bennett and Altin van der Merwe, sit three shots further back on three-under-par after posting 69s.

Du Plooy finished his round in style with three birdies in a row to put himself in the mix early in the Championship.

“It was kind of a struggle in the beginning. I didn’t hit the ball good at all and my bunker play was shocking, but then the last through holes, I finished up nicely. I’m very pleased with the round,” said du Plooy.

“Finishing like that gives you confidence and starting a championship under par is always good. I’m just going to try and get a little bit of practice in on my short game and bunker play and then hopefully tomorrow goes better.”

“It was a good round out there today and I held on nicely,” said Burnand, reflecting on his round that included an eagle on the par-5 15th. 

“I started badly in the beginning and missed quite a few greens in my first six holes. My chipping and putting saved me a bit. Then I managed to build a bit of momentum and then the eagle on fifteen helped.

 

“So yeah, I’m very, very happy with my game. It was a good performance and I’m very happy with the start.”

Top-ranked player Christiaan Maas, Jack Buchanan and Amilka Bhana were the only other players to break par after one-under-par 71s.

Meanwhile, in the Africa Amateur Women’s Invitational, home favourite Kyra van Kan leads the way after the first round.

The South African shot an even-par 72 that included four birdies in a row from 13th, but suffered a double-bogey seven at the last after finding trouble in the water. Nevertheless, the 18-year-old remains undeterred by events on the 18th and feels confident of a low score in tomorrow’s second round.

“I got off to a little bit of a shaky start on the front nine, but on the back nine I just felt a lot more confidence,” said van Kan.

“I started with birdie on 11, parred the par-3 12th hole, and then made four birdies in a row from there. I was just on a roll. I think 18 got to me a little bit but I’m still really happy with the fact that I put up those four birdies in a row.

“I feel great about my game. Quite honestly, today was just the start. I wanted to see how the rest of the field were playing and to see how low I can go. I think if I play the front nine a lot better tomorrow, I’ll have a really good chance of going low.”

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