IRENE, Tshwane – Louis Albertse was all smiles after winning the Kit Kat Cash and Carry Pro-Am and R320 000 at Irene Country Club on Sunday, but he said even though he triumphed by a comfortable four strokes it felt like he had been climbing mountains all day.
Albertse finished in style by sinking a 30ft putt for birdie on the 18th hole, completing an impressive four-under 68 in the final round, and a total of 23-under-par for the R2 million event, well clear of Kyle Barker in second place on 19-under.
But both playing partner Malcolm Mitchell and Barker had put Albertse under pressure through the final day.
Mitchell was four-under-par through the front nine as he closed to within two strokes, but then a horror run from the 12th hole saw him drop four strokes in three holes, including a double-bogey on the par-three 13th hole, when his tee-shot hit a tree and he then three-putted.
Barker produced excellent golf on the last day in a bogey-free 67, which could have been even better and would have put Albertse under even more pressure had a couple of late birdie putts not missed the hole by an inch or two.
Nevertheless, Albertse was not to be swayed on Sunday. He made a pair of crucial birdies around the turn and then played solid, error-free golf to par his way to the last hole.
“It’s always really hard to win, it never gets easier. Everyone here is extremely talented and the pressure can get to you; 18 holes is a long time,” the representative of Dundee Golf Club, in the foothills of the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, said after his second Sunshine Tour victory.
“Malcolm Mitchell played extremely well out of the blocks and that motivated me because I knew if I make mistakes then he will overtake me. I just tried to stay in it, focus on my own game as much as I could.
“The birdies at nine and 10 were crucial, with Malcolm missing a birdie putt at 10. I hit some good shots around the turn and I just tried to play good shot after good shot,” Albertse said.
Far from being insipid golf, Albertse’s run of pars from the 11th hole was a calculated strategy by the 26-year-old to eliminate risk, on a course he loves, having finished third in the same event last year.
“Having a good lead is nice because it means you can hit conservative shots, especially on holes 14 to 16. It also showed on my choice of club off the 18th tee when I hit a five-iron.
“I scored my first nine-under here at Irene, back in my amateur days. I just really enjoy the course and coming back here, I feel comfortable here,” Albertse said.
Sean Cronje, the 22-year-old from Durbanville, hit the big time on Sunday as his phenomenal eight-under 64 lifted him into third place on 17-under-par, his first top-10 finish on the Sunshine Tour.
Mitchell finished with a 71 to share fourth place on 16-under with Wynand Dingle (67).