While everyone agreed it was bloody hot at Leopard Creek on Thursday for the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, there was not much consistency amongst the golfers when it came to taking advantage of the special dispensation they had been given to wear shorts for the first time in competition on any professional tour.
The only real consistency seemed to be that most of the golfers who went off in the morning wore long pants, but the majority of the afternoon groups were in shorts as the temperature rose to 38⁰ in Malelane.
South African Branden Grace went off in the morning and shot 68, and was one of the few early risers wearing shorts. He felt it was a young and old thing.
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“I feel like I’m one of the older guys now and as a veteran I thought I might as well take advantage of wearing shorts. It doesn’t feel right, but it was great, awesome to be in shorts, but I must just see how red my legs are tonight. Johann Rupert and the Sunshine Tour are always thinking of the players and I think they got it spot-on because it was boiling out there. I think the younger guys were a bit scared to wear shorts though … “ the 31-year-old Grace said.
Kyle Barker, the 21-year-old from Randpark Golf Club who shot a 77, was one of the youngsters who wore long trousers even in the afternoon. “I must have been crazy!” he told The Citizen after his round.
Some of the golfers even cast aspersions on the necessity of the move, throwing shade on the heat of the South African tropical lowveld.
“I have played in a lot worse heat, places like Singapore and Malaysia. It was hard today but not that bad, nobody is going to die. But my battery is quite low now so the first thing I must do is rest,” Spanish veteran Pablo Larrazabal, going into his 13th year on the European Tour, said.
Even a true-blue South African like Keith Horne was playing down the extreme nature of the weather. But then again he was born in Durban and is a long-time member of the Asian Tour.
“I hate to say this, but I thought it was quite pleasant out there today! I didn’t think it was that hot at all. The humidity in Asia is so much worse. I’m normally sopping wet, and today I hardly sweated. Yes, it’s hot and you feel flustered, but the overwhelming heat – I didn’t feel it. There was a bit of a breeze which helped, and I didn’t find it too unpleasant,” Horne said after shooting a 66 to finish the first day as the top South African.
The pull of tradition is obviously also a factor.
“I couldn’t wear shorts, not for the first round of the season, I didn’t feel ready to do that. Shorts are more for practice and chilling out with friends on the course, not for a competitive round – and it worked,” the 36-year-old Larrazabal said after also posting a 66.