JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng (24 October) â€“ It took the near-perfect round for Luke Brown to win the Blair Atholl Championship delivered by The Courier Guy on Sunday and the 23-year-old duly produced a bogey-free 67 to claim his first Sunshine Tour title.
Two shots off the lead and having never won on the main tour before, Brown also had to conquer one of the longest courses in the world and multiple winners like Ulrich van den Berg, Trevor Fisher Junior and Neil Schietekat.
And a blustery, shifting wind was an added challenge.
But Brown showed remarkable composure and tremendous skill as he compiled one of the few bogey-free rounds all week and collected five birdies as well to finish on 12-under-par.
â€œThey say your first one is the hardest to win and it was definitely very difficult today, but that was one of the best rounds of my life. It was breezy and difficult to choose the right club for these pin positions. But my ball-striking was amazing today, I hit all 18 greens in regulation, which is wonderful on the third longest course in the world.
â€œMy putting was also solid and if you keep the bogeys off your card on an amazing course like this, then youâ€™re going to be tough to beat. I definitely had to stay patient, you might feel like you should be making more birdies, but itâ€™s not that easy on this course. I tried not to look at what the others were doing,â€ Brown said.
The leading three-ball of Trevor Fisher Junior, Ulrich van den Berg and Louis Albertse all birdied the par-five first hole, but they were then jerked back to reality as the rest of the final round became a struggle.
A double-bogey on the par-five seventh was a fatal blow for overnight leader Albertse, while Van den Berg double-bogeyed the par-four 12th and dropped four more shots coming home in 43. Fisher Junior had three successive bogeys on the treacherous stretch of long par-fours from 14 to 16 and closed with a double-bogey 7 at the 18th.
Schietekat was moving in the other direction, however, and birdies on the last two holes gave him a 67 and the clubhouse lead on 10-under-par.
Keagan Thomas fired a 69 to finish third on nine-under, while Anton Haig and Albertse tied for fourth on eight-under.
Thriston Lawrence shot a remarkable 64 to catapult into sixth place on seven-under.
But it was Johannesburg-based Brown who ended a popular winner by two strokes, having learnt the harsh lessons from the KitKat Championship at the start of the season when he squandered a five-shot lead in the final round.
â€œI was thinking about the KitKat Championship on the 17th and I always wanted to get back into that position. The leaderboard swings up and down and itâ€™s difficult to keep track of, so Iâ€™d rather not worry about that. From that experience I learnt to be more patient because I felt I should have won that one.
â€œI felt my game was close to getting back to that level in the last month, but I just focused on getting on the green and giving myself a chance at least. It shows how tough the Sunshine Tour is that itâ€™s taken me so long to win when Iâ€™ve been playing well,â€ Brown said.