BALLITO, KwaZulu-Natal – Dylan Naidoo is acknowledged as one of the most talented young golfers in the country and the 24-year-old backed this up when he claimed his maiden Sunshine Tour title on Friday as he won the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun Sibaya at Umhlali Country Club by two shots.
Naidoo – a member of the Sunshine Tour’s Papwa Sewgolum Class for historically disadvantaged professionals which is supported by Investec, SuperSport, Betway, VAT It, DNI, Credit Guarantee, Cobra Puma and TaylorMade, and The Papwa Foundation – said the key to his breakthrough title was becoming a creature of habit out on the golf course, and taking comfort from a set process.
“The most important thing is that I felt I had the win coming. I’ve been playing very well for the last few weeks. It’s the culmination of having really good processes and discipline out on the course.
“So the best part is that it does not feel like a lightning bolt came down from the sky and I got lucky and won. I feel like I can replicate this because I have a really good process. But of course we will have to wait and see what happens because you never know in golf.”
Naidoo began the final round two shots off the lead and settled himself with a wonderful front nine that was bogey-free and featured back-to-back birdies on the third and fourth holes. But he was still a couple of shots behind Luke Brown until a brilliant eagle on the 489m par-five 10th saw the former Big Easy Tour golfer vault strongly into contention.
Naidoo then targeted the short par-fours on the back nine, picking up birdies on three of them, and dropping a shot on the 15th, which he described as “a good bogey”.
A pair of birdies on 16 and 17 beat back the tentacles of the chasing golfers trying to reach him at the top of the leaderboard.
“My goal was just to turn under-par because I had not done it the whole week, so I got that job done on two-under, I played really solid,” Naidoo recalled.
“We had 209 to the flag on 10, but we wanted to pitch it well short because the greens were really starting to firm up. It was a little downwind and my seven-iron pitched and bounced exactly where it needed to and I sank the eight-foot putt for eagle.
“There are so many opportunities on the back nine and good tee shots set me up. I hit really good iron shots too, we were super-consistent with where we wanted to hit them and I putted really well. I sank a 25-footer on 17 which was not expected because it’s a very uphill putt, tricky just to get to the hole,” Naidoo said.
Once the job was done with a four-under 67 leading him to six-under-par for the tournament, he was grateful for all the supporting cast to his biggest win yet in his fledgling golf career.
“It’s taken thousands of hours of hard work and I could not have done it without the team around me – my sponsors, parents and loved ones – and everyone who helped along the journey. I’m just so ecstatic,” Naidoo said.
Brown fell away on the back nine as he dropped three shots by the 15th hole, finishing on four-under and in a four-way tie for second place with Jaco Prinsloo, amateur Jonathan Broomhead and Ian Snyman.
Prinsloo produced a top-class round of 68 that included two birdies and an eagle on the par-four ninth.
SA Strokeplay champion Broomhead, playing in just his second Sunshine Tour event, also shone with marvellous 69.
Overnight leader Richard Joubert went through hell on the front nine with two double-bogies and then three more bogeys on the back nine, finishing on one-under, in a tie for ninth.