DURBAN – Vaughn Groenewald won a thoroughly dramatic Wild Coast Challenge yesterday, to end what must have felt like one of the longest weeks on the Sunshine Tour.
Groenewald had to hold off three rivals in a play-off to get the job done, and he birdied the 18th hole at the first time of asking.
That secured a cheque for R126 800, and stopped a frustrating run of three missed cuts in spectacular fashion.
Groenewald, 43, plays out of Kingswood Golf Estate, and his familiarity with the windy conditions proved very handy. It was also a second triumph at the Wild Coast in four years, after his title here in 2015.
Groenewald will look back on his second round, nine-under 61 as the key to the victory, but he still had to birdie the closing hole, in regulation, just to make it into the play-off. He carded a 66, including two birdies in his last three holes.
Someone had to post a low one from the middle of the pack, and the big, final day charge came from serial winner Darren Fichardt, who went out in a blistering five-under 30, before coming home with three more birdies, for a sparkling 62. That set the clubhouse target at 16-under, and it was up to Groenewald and second round leader Adilson de Silva to respond.
While Groenewald finished with momentum, Da Silva didn’t have the fluency of the first two rounds. He was left to rue a poor tee shot on the penultimate hole. He stood on the 185m, par-three 17th with a one-shot lead, after yet another birdie on the par-five 16th. Two pars to finish would have handed him the title, but he crucially dropped back to 16 under, and could only par the final hole.
Hennie du Plessis had earlier carded a second consecutive 64 to also notch 16-under, and take his place in the playoff. Groenewald took the good vibes from his earlier birdie in regulation, and made the same score to scoop the title, and end a tumultuous week in Port Edward.
The sun, fittingly, did eventually peek out on the final morning, and Groenewald was able to bask in a victory that had as much to do with skill as it had to do with perseverance. Players and officials alike were tested this week, with all sorts of challenges on and off the golf course.
-16 - V Groenewald (won via playoff), D Fichardt, A Da Silva, H Du Plessis
- 15 - A Haindl
-13 - B Follett-Smith, O Bekker