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22nd October 2023

Moolman charges to Vodacom Origins victory

PORT EDWARD, KwaZulu-Natal – Pieter Moolman’s strategy on the final day of the Vodacom Origins of Golf KwaZulu-Natal event at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club on Sunday was to try and create as many opportunities for himself to net birdies, and the Benoni Lake golfer succeeded admirably as he fired a sensational 64 to get into a playoff with Ethan Smith, which Moolman won.

The 32-year-old Moolman began the final round six shots behind on four-over-par, following a 68 in the weather-delayed second round. He was so far behind Hennie O’Kennedy on two-under that he began his last round on the 10th hole, and a wonderful start saw him birdie four of the five holes from the 11th.

He went out in a stunning 31 strokes, and although Moolman’s back nine (from the first) featured a couple of bogeys, at the first and eighth holes, he still collected four birdies to come home in two-under, his 64 being the low round of the tournament.

Smith, meanwhile, also made a brilliant start with three birdies from the first hole, quickly overhauling O’Kennedy, who had been one stroke ahead of him. The 25-year-old from Paarl bogeyed the 18th hole however, forcing him into the playoff.

Moolman added to his birdie count in the sudden-death decider as he made a three on the 305m par-four first hole, while Smith could only make par.

“I’ve been hitting the ball well enough all week to have better scores, and it finally came with a 31 on my front nine,” Moolman said after his second Sunshine Tour win. “I just tried to give myself chances and capitalise on them as much as possible.

“And then in the playoff, Ethan went first and hit a really good tee shot. I was between clubs, depending on what he had done, so I hit driver and was short of the greenside bunker. Considering the not-so-great lie I had, I actually hit a really good chip to four feet. Ethan’s chip went past the hole and then he almost holed his putt.

“But I like the layout here at the Wild Coast, I fancy this golf course and I’ve been quite consistently good on it. I was very chuffed with today. I’ve been close a few times since my first win last year, and I could have won more. But ask any golfer, we’re just very happy to be contending and I can’t really complain about my game,” Moolman said.

The experienced golfer, having turned professional in 2011, was coming off a brilliant 64 two weeks ago in his final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the Old Course in St Andrews, and Moolman thrived on the similarities between the Scottish masterpiece and the challenging Wild Coast Sun Country Club.

“My game is very close to where I want it to be and I enjoyed St Andrews, playing really well there. It was the same thing as today in terms of approach, just trying to give myself plenty of opportunities.

“With all the rain and the course flooding a bit, the Wild Coast was actually a bit similar to playing in Scotland and the wind was still up today, but calmer than yesterday,” Moolman said.

Third place, just one stroke behind Moolman and Smith, ended up being shared property between England’s David Wicks (68), Trevor Fisher Jnr (69), who won the Wild Waves Challenge at this course in 2012, and MJ Viljoen (67).

O’Kennedy shot a three-over-par 73 on Sunday to finish in the tie for 10th on one-over-par.