George Coetzee rode a wave of huge home club support to shoot a five-under-par 65 and win the Tshwane Open by one stroke in a thrilling final round at Pretoria Country Club yesterday.
Coetzee began playing golf at the Waterkloof course and won his first tournament there as a 10-year-old, so the genial 28-year-old had plenty of support as he edged out Jacques Blaauw, who fired a tremendous 61, with a birdie on the 17th hole.
“I loved the fans, when I was growing up you dream about playing in front of galleries like that and the crowd just seemed to get bigger and bigger. There were hundreds of people following our group and I recognised a lot of them. I never thought, as a kid, that I’d be playing a European Tour event at my home club, so it’s unreal to win here,” Coetzee said after finishing on 14-under-par 266.
Coetzee was one of six golfers who shared the lead after the third round, but with Craig Lee (70), Adrian Otaegui (71), Wallie Coetsee (76), David Horsey (73) and Trevor Fisher Junior (75) all fading away in the final round, it was left to Blaauw, who teed off an hour-and-three-quarters before Coetzee, to set a target with a blistering round that included four successive birdies from the sixth hole and two-in-a-row to finish.
In the end it came down to whether Coetzee, who had picked up four birdies in five holes from the sixth to catch Blaauw on 13-under, could gain one more shot in the closing holes, or alternatively falter as he pushed too hard.
But that’s where home course knowledge kicked in and Coetzee showed great temperament. The crucial shot was his second on 17 after he hit his driver well right, between the trees, but a delicate, skilful chip left him with a five-foot putt for birdie.
“I had a good game plan mentally and I was waiting for 17, which is usually a birdie chance. It didn’t happen exactly how I wanted, but I know there are gaps between the bunkers there. Today it was about mixing aggressiveness with cleverness and I was very happy with my ball-striking, I was loving my driver. Most of my wins have been due to my putting, so it was nice for my ball-striking to come through today,” Coetzee said.
Not allowing his hand to be forced was crucial for Coetzee and he showed similar patience at the start of his round when he reeled off five straight pars before a monster-drive at the sixth set up his first birdie.
“I’ve played those first three holes a thousand times and they’re probably the trickiest on the course, and then the fourth they made a par-four this week. So that’s not where I wanted to make my charge, it’s easy to drop shots there, but I knew when I stepped on to the sixth tee that it was time,” Coetzee said.
Being able to deliver the goods under pressure also means the changes to Coetzee’s game, which includes simplifying his pre-shot routine again, are bearing fruit.
South Africans Dean Burmester and Tjaart van der Walt both shot three-under 67s to join Lee in a tie for third on nine-under, while Otaegui dropped back to eight-under to share sixth with Jaco Ahlers.