And it could have been even better had he not made bogeys on seven and 13, but that didn’t bother him much as he finished one ahead of Zimbabwean hopeful Ryan Cairns, with six players a further stroke back on five-under-par.
“I had a good start,” said Hugo. “I hit a very good approach on the first and I birdied that from short range, and then I made eagle from about six or eight feet on three. Then on the fourth, I basically hit it stone dead.
“That’s a good start, and with these par-fives reachable, you try and be conservative on the more difficult holes and attack those you can score on – the shorter ones.”
He’s played well on the Royal Harare layout for a long time, and that experience shone through in the opening round. “Ever since I lost to Mark McNulty here in 2000 – there was a three-shot swing on the last hole when I made double-bogey and he made birdie – I’ve played well on this course,” he said.
“I don’t know why because it’s narrow and I’m not the straightest. But my putting probably makes up for that. I had 27 putts today, which is not magnificent, but I didn’t miss much. The greens are superb, so if you actually do get close – or even from longer range like 25 feet – you’ve got a great chance,” he added.
With the tournament heralding the start of the Sunshine Tour’s 2017-18 season, Hugo wasn’t sure what to expect from his game after a lengthy break since the Tshwane Open which finished on March 5. “Normally I like to play a lot of golf, so that by the third or fourth tournament, you get that momentum,” he said. “So for all of us, this was like a hit and hope. But I did some work in the five weeks we had off. I also took a few weeks off and went to the farm. In the week leading up to this, I worked hard, especially on the short game which obviously helped.”
Cairns started his round on the 10th, and a bogey on his eighth – the 17th – enraged him enough that he went on something of a birdie spree, with four in a row around the turn, and another two as he finished his round. “Maybe I must get angry more often,” he laughed.
The group on five under consisted of rookie Luke Jerling, Keenan Davidse, CJ du Plessis, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Oliver Bekker and Francois Coetzee.
65 - Jean Hugo
66 - Ryan Cairns
67 - Luke Jerling, Keenan Davidse, CJ du Plessis, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Oliver Bekker, Francois Coetzee
68 - Danie van Tonder, Rhys Enoch, Tyrone Ferreira, Anthony Michael, Jason Froneman, Rourke van der Spuy, Cody Martin, Vaughn Groenewald, Aubrey Beckley
69 - Alex Haindl, Lindani Ndwandwe, N.J. Arnoldi, Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Jonathan Agren, Andrew Curlewis, Jared Harvey, Jaco Ahlers, Madalitso Muthiya, Trainos Muradzikwa
70 - Tyrone Ryan, Neil Schietekat, Peter Karmis, Coert Groenewald, Dayne Moore, Andrew van der Knaap, Jean-Paul Strydom, Justin Harding, Michael Hollick, Teaghan Gauche, TC Charamba
71 - Jacquin Hess, Bryce Easton, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Merrick Bremner, Steven Ferreira, Jaco Prinsloo, James Kamte, Martin Rohwer, Breyten Meyer
72 - Neil O'Briain, Herman Loubser, Michael Palmer, Wallie Coetsee, Christiaan Basson, Arthur Horne, Jacques P de Villiers, Clive Nguru, Stefan Engell Andersen, Dongkwan Kim, Antonio Costa, Andre Cruse, Zander Lombard, Ulrich van den Berg, Toby Tree, Wynand Dingle, Callum Mowat, Allan Versfeld, MJ Viljoen
73 - Kyle Pilgrim, Jason Viljoen, Toto Thimba, Marc Cayeux, Mark Williams, Ruan de Smidt, Doug McGuigan, Stephen Ferreira, Chris Cannon, Theunis Spangenberg, Teagan Moore, Sean Bradley
74 - Gerard du Plooy, Jeff Inglis, Stuart Smith, Sipho Bujela, Omar Sandys, Simon Mburu, Rhys West, Chris Swanepoel, Combrinck Smit, Ruan Huysamen, Kayyam Rauf Mandhu, Quintin Wilsnach, Gary Thompson, Lyle Rowe, Makhetha Mazibuko, JJ Senekal, Matthew Carvell, Heinrich Bruiners, JC Ritchie, Andre de Decker, Danie Van Niekerk
75 - Richie O'Donovan, Sheldon Steyn, Colin Nel, Steve Surry, Titch Moore, Charl Coetzee, Jake Redman, Phumlani Maluka, Nyasha Muyambo, Robson Chinoi, Altaaf Bux, Scott Campbell, Andrew Odoh, Andre Nel, Ignatius Mketekete, Riekus Nortje
76 - Jaco Mouton, Damon Stephenson, Peter Gustafsson, Mark Murless, Jake Roos, Hennie du Plessis, Brian Gondo, Arnold Burasho, Mohammad Rauf Mandhu, Lyford Yadyo, Dwayne Basson, Zack Byrd, Julius Kamalizeni
77 - Greg Bentley, Bryce McCabe, Robson Saurombe, PH McIntyre, Desne Van Den Bergh, Daniel Hammond
78 - Ryan Tipping, Brandon Cloete, Matthew Spacey, Teboho Sefatsa, Jason Diab, Tonderayi Masunga, Mikhail Tewary, Davison Elijah
79 - Thembelani Vundla, Cosmas Mufaya, Thanda Mavundla, Matias Calderon, Jason Smith
80 - Liberty Gumisa, Never Milazi, David Amm, Irvin Mazibuko
81 - Tafara Mpofu, Simon Murungweni, Armandt Scholtz
83 - Akil Yousuf
DQ - Anyway Katembenuka