CENTURION, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 24, Oliver Bekker during day 2 of the Telkom PGA Pro-Am held at Centurion Country Club on January 24, 2012 in Centurion, South Africa Photo by Petri Oeschger / Sunshine Tour / Gallo Images

Johannesburg – Oliver Bekker became the first Sunshine Tour golf champion of 2013 at Centurion Country Club on Friday, shooting a third-round 66 to win the Telkom PGA Pro-Am by two strokes.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better than this. It’s the first time I’m starting out a year with a win, so it’s an awesome feeling and I’m very happy at the moment,” said Bekker.

Bekker reached 20-under-par total after three rounds and wrapped up a two-stroke victory over Ryan Strauss and PH McIntyre.

“I played a solid round of golf today,” said Bekker.

“It was probably my best ball-striking of the week, and under the pressure I’d say I did very well for myself.”

The 28-year-old rose to new heights last year with his 10th place finish on the 2012 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit and had to set new goals for the 2013 season.

Starting with a victory was certainly in line with his aims.

Sunshine Tour players are racing to make enough points to earn one of 30 spots in a limited-field, R6-million tournament Ä the Investec Cup. Thirteen events on the Sunshine Tour schedule, beginning with the BMG Classic and ending with the Telkom PGA Championship, offer up such points. Bekker’s victory counted for 130 Investec Cup points and took him to 10th in the race.

Ryan Strauss graduated from the Vusi Ngubeni Qualifying School a fortnight ago, yet displayed nerves of steel on Friday as he sped around Centurion Country Club in 64 strokes.

“To start the season so well is the biggest relief ever. My ball-striking has been amazing. I think I missed three greens out of 54 holes this week. The game just felt solid, and it all just came to the party,” said Strauss.

The 26-year-old gains entry to the Joburg Open with his share of second, and after competing with the top Sunshine Tour players was ready to challenge Europe’s best.

“We had guys like James Kingston and Ross McGowan out here, and I feel over the moon after competing with them. I was very nervous today, knowing that I had to put in a really good round, but I managed to do it. It’s sinking in, but it will take a little while. Let’s hope I can carry this form through to the Joburg Open,” he said.

PH McIntyre had a chance to take sole second, but his birdie putt at the 18th lipped-out. The Heidelberg local joined Strauss on 18-under-par and they each took home a cool R58,500. – Sapa