PRETORIA, Gauteng – A strong back nine saw Malcolm Mitchell cruise to a remarkable four-stroke victory in the SunBet Challenge Time Square at Wingate Park Country Club on Friday and claim his maiden win on the Sunshine Tour.
After turning in one under for his round, Mitchell made five birdies on the back nine for a final round of 66 to win on 14 under par. He finished well clear of second-placed Louis Albertse, who had a great last day with a 65 to end on 10 under par.
Mitchell’s victory was his first on the Sunshine Tour in his 73rd event, and comes after he was the runner-up to Estiaan Conradie in the same event at Wingate two years ago.
Starting the final round two strokes behind overnight leader and travelling companion Jaco van Zyl, Mitchell was still trailing the leaders when he reached the turn in just one-under for his round, despite making an eagle on the par-five second.
But a birdie on the par-four 10th kicked off an astonishing back nine that saw him pick up further shots on the 13th, 14th, 15th and 18th holes as he pulled clear of the field.
“I was absolutely in the zone after I woke up this morning – just feeling good and happy. I know I play well here. There’s something about this course that just suits my eye. I just love it here and it’s one of my favourites.
“I spoke with Estiaan on the morning of the final round and I said the event two years ago actually brings me a lot of confidence. It might have looked comfortable today, but the first nine was actually very hectic and I made some very good up-and-downs.
“But then on the back nine I just felt the calmest I have ever felt in my life. My ball striking was unbelievable. I was making putts, and before I knew it, I opened my eyes and I had three birdies in a row from nowhere,” Mitchell beamed.
His caddie, the well-travelled Zwelithini “Terence” Ngoma, also had reason to feel delighted.
“It might sound arrogant, but I have this thing with my caddie. I have a very nice watch at home which I told him I would give to him when I get my first win on tour. And I don’t know why, but I actually packed it in the car this morning, I just had a feeling, I guess,” Mitchell explained.
Behind him, a fierce competitive streak is one of Albertse’s prime traits and starting the day seven strokes behind Van Zyl did not bother him. A tremendous start saw Albertse birdie seven of the first eight holes to claim the lead. The Pretoria local bogeyed the par-four ninth hole, but birdied 10 and 11 to regain the lead. But dropped shots at the 12th and 15th holes ended his brave challenge.
Ryan van Velzen also mounted a charge on the back nine, with an eagle on the par-five 15th leaving him on five-under for the round. But he bogeyed the 17th and could only par the par-five closing hole to finish with a 68 and alone in third place on nine-under.
Overnight leader Van Zyl stumbled to a 75 in the final round, with just one birdie, finishing in a tie for sixth place on seven-under-par.