Dwight Yorke admitted to being terrified of the pressure but was soon calmed by the sublime golf of professionals Sergio Garcia and John Cook as they took the lead in Saturday’s first round of the Gary Player Invitational, presented by Coca-Cola, at The Links at Fancourt.
Yorke and businesswoman Sinead Kenny, the leading amateur duo in a charity tournament that partners a celebrity and business leader with professionals from the regular tour and Champions Tour over 36 holes, lead the fourball alliance competition by one stroke on 14 under. And their professionals in Garcia and Cook also lead the betterball competition by one stroke on seven under.
The betterball is reserved for the professionals, while the amateurs playing alongside them compete in the fourball alliance competition.
“I was terrified out there,” said Yorke. “I’ve played in front of big crowds before, but the game of golf is certainly different. The golf became easier once I relaxed.”
Kenny, a regular competitor in this tournament, is certainly looking forward to improving on her second place finish in the alliance competition last year.
“I think my teams get better every year. But we’ve had so much fun and it’s a privilege to play with golfers like this.”
Making his debut in this event and playing his first competitive round on The Links, Garcia looked impressive as he goes about regaining his form.
“It’s getting there, but it’s a work in progress. It’s not like you just do something and suddenly it’s a pretty picture again,” he said.
In the amateur alliance competition, being the major sponsor of this event clearly benefitted Alex Maditsi.
The Country Manager of Coca-Cola East and Central Africa and his fourball are one stroke off the lead on 13 under, with Maditsi enjoying one of his best rounds in this tournament. Playing off a nine handicap, he went out in six over par and then played the back nine in level par.
“It was a memorable day for me. I didn’t play at all well on the front nine and was extremely angry with myself. So I pulled it together on the back nine,” he said.
One of the star attractions on Saturday was the professional pairing of tournament host Gary Player and leading South African women’s professional Lee-Anne Pace. This was the first time Pace has played with the Grand Slam champion.
“It was amazing – one of the best days of my life on the golf course. I’ve learnt a lot from him in our first round of golf together,” said Pace.
And Player was certainly impressed with the potential of the five-time winner on the Ladies European Tour this year.
“I was impressed with how she keeps the ball in play. She has a good all-round game, and that kind of game can win Majors,” said Player.
“Lee-Anne can do so much for women’s golf and South Africa. I would love to see her with her ability to really put a massive effort into winning Majors. And I think she can do it.”