SUN CITY, North West – Making birdies is usually the name of the game in the modified scoring system used by the Blue Label Challenge, but making 15 pars was at the centre of Luca Filippi’s success on Saturday as he claimed the title by two points at the Gary Player Country Club.
Filippi, who went into the final round leading by six points, had to recover from a tough start in which he bogeyed the fourth and sixth holes to lose two points. But after his mishap at the par-four sixth, Filippi did not drop another shot, his eight pars in a row being interrupted by a crucial birdie, worth two points, on the par-four 15th hole. The 24-year-old then parred his way home, despite high drama on the last hole when he hit his approach into the water but managed to get up-and-down for par on the par-five.
That left Filippi on 34 points, two ahead of Ryan van Velzen and Keenan Davidse.
Van Velzen pushed Filippi hard with a seven-point haul, but he made crucial bogeys on the 13th and 17th holes, while Davidse scored four points on the back nine but paid dearly for a pair of bogeys on the second and third holes, and then four in a row from the sixth.
“It was a tough day with guys seeming to struggle to control their ball-flight in the hot weather, it went a bit further today,” Filippi said. “It was weird that I wasn’t that nervous because in this format it’s anyone’s game and I knew I was always in play.
“I just wanted to make pars but give myself chances to make birdies, if the putt drops then it’s a bonus. Draining that birdie putt on 15, after hitting a lob-wedge from 81 metres in the middle of the fairway to two metres was big for momentum coming down the stretch, putting me all-square for the day.
“The 18th was nervewracking though. Keenan and I both hit good tee-shots and I had 185 metres to the flag, so I hit a five-iron, but I was short-right and into the water. Keenan missed a four-metre birdie putt to win, but I made my four-metre putt for par.
“There’s no better feeling than winning a golf tournament, it was unbelievable, that’s the only word to describe it. I’m very happy, it was a great day,” Filippi said.
The victory is the Milnerton golfer’s first in a regular individual event on the Sunshine Tour, Filippi having won the Bain’s Whisky Ubunye Teams Challenge at Pretoria Country Club in August.
“It’s been a long journey and it’s wonderful to get it done. The teams event didn’t quite feel like a proper win, there has been some talk about ‘is it really a win?’, but I just had to suppress those thoughts. Now the monkey is completely off my back,” said Filippi, who finished second in last year’s Blue Label Challenge at Sun City after his eagle-putt on the last lipped out.