Adrian Meronk continued to make European Tour history as he opened up a three shot lead heading into the weekend at the 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship.
The 27-year-old became the first Polish player to share the lead at a European Tour event after his first round 65 and when he followed it with a 66 on day two at Leopard Creek Country Club, he was the first Pole to hold a solo lead.
Meronk is becoming a true trailblazer for the game in his homeland, having already become the first Polish player to hold full European Tour playing privileges when he graduated from the European Challenge Tour last term, winning the 57° Open de Portugal @ Morgado Golf Resort en route.
He may have just 28 European Tour events and two top tens under his belt so far, but he looked every inch the seasoned veteran in Malelane, moving to 13 under to sit ahead of England's Richard Bland and Dane Joachim B. Hansen.
Frenchman Robin Roussel and home favourite Jayden Schaper were then at eight under, a shot clear of Spaniard Adri Arnaus, South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Scotland's Scott Jamieson.
“I’m very pleased," said Meronk. "I hit a lot of good shots and am very happy with my position.
“The last couple of holes were quite dark, especially the last one. I didn’t want to rush anything because I’ve been in that position before and rushed it.
"I’m excited, I can't wait. It’s only halfway and there’s still a lot of golf to be played. But I’m very happy."
Last week's winner Hansen set the pace early in day as he carded the lowest round of the week with a 64 to move to ten under and lead in the clubhouse by three shots.
The 30-year-old started with two birdies but dropped a shot on the 12th before going eagle-birdie-birdie to catapult himself to seven under.
I’m excited, I can't wait. It’s only halfway and there’s still a lot of golf to be played. But I’m very happy
He dropped a shot on the 16th but moved back to seven under on the 18th and was soon in a six way tie for the lead before he birdied the sixth, holed a 25 foot right to lefter on the eighth and then put his approach to two feet on the ninth for a closing birdie.
It did not take Meronk long to start eating into his lead, however, as he birdied the first, second and fifth to get back on top before dropping a shot on the ninth to turn in 33.
Approaches to inside six feet on the tenth and 11th had him alone at the summit and after a glorious drive on the par five 13th, he put his second to five feet for an eagle.
Another birdie on the 16th had him four shots ahead but he dropped a shot on the last.
Fellow Challenge Tour graduate Bland had his first top ten of the season last week and is looking for his first European Tour victory in his 468th event.
The 47-year-old bogeyed the first but bounced back in some style, making gains on the second, sixth, tenth, 13th, 16th and 18th in a second consecutive 67.
Schaper also carded a 67 as he recovered from a double bogey on the 14th with three birdies in his last four holes, while co-overnight leader Roussel birdied the tenth, 14th and third but dropped shots on the 18th and first in a 71.
Arnaus carded a 67, Bezuidenhout registered a 68, and Jamieson settled for a 71 having been nine under and two ahead after a blistering start.
Home duo Christiaan Basson and Ockie Strydom, American Sean Crocker, Welshman Oliver Farr, Zimbabwe's Benjamin Follett-Smith and England's Oliver Wilson were all seven shots off the lead.