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Last-gasp birdie sees JC Ritchie successfully defend Cape Town Open title

JC Ritchie celebrates his win during day 4 of the Bain's Whisky Cape Town Open at Royal Cape Golf Club and Rondebosch Golf Club in Cape Town on Sunday. Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

JC Ritchie celebrates his win during day 4 of the Bain's Whisky Cape Town Open at Royal Cape Golf Club and Rondebosch Golf Club in Cape Town on Sunday. Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour

Published Feb 20, 2022

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Cape Town — It took a dramatic 25-footer for birdie on the 18th hole, but JC Ritchie was up to it as he drained the putt to grab a last gasp victory in a successful defence of his title in the Sunshine Tour’s Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open.

It’s a hole on which Ritchie has history, after he birdied it last year to get into a play-off and birdied it again to win the play-off. After he had dropped two shots on the 13th and 14th at Royal Cape Golf Club, he needed a strong finish once again if he was going to pull a rabbit out of the hat and win after he had looked to be cruising home with a two-stroke lead with six holes to play.

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“It was nice for the first time in a while to actually have a putt to win outright and not just to get in a play-off, and to seize the opportunity is amazing,” said Ritchie afterwards of a triumph that came in an event co-sanctioned by the Challenge Tour.

That putt gave him a closing four-under-par 68 and took him one clear of German Christopher Mivis, who was watching anxiously from the sidelines after finished a few minutes earlier with a six-under-par 66 to move to 17-under.

Ritchie had moved into a two-stroke lead on the ninth where he made birdie and Spaniard Ivan Cantero Gutierrez had made bogey, and overnight leader Tom McKibbin of Northern Ireland was battling on his way to a one-over 37 on the front nine. Inexplicably, after neat enough pars on 10 and 11, Ritchie started to look unsettled, and his normal accuracy off the tee evaporated from the 12th hole. It was no surprise when he dropped shots on 13 and 14 as he paid the price for being out of position.

But he got things on a more even keel with a par on the deceptively difficult 15th, and then he pulled the first of a couple of aces he had up his sleeve. Another wayward drive on 16 seemed to have put him under immense pressure, especially when his best option was to chip out a short distance up the fairway. But, with 200 metres to the pin, he struck the six-iron of the tournament.

“The third shot at 16 was everything to me,” he said. “I’ve always hated that tee shot, so being able to chip it out to a perfect yardage and to pull off a six-iron from where I did, and then to nail the putt was important. That was where I sort of felt like I had the tournament back in my grasp.”

There was still work to be done, and after his tee shot on 18 leaked left just off the fairway, his approach to 25 feet looked to be about the best he could hope for. He was surely thinking of a play-off again.

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But the putt never looked like missing from about 10 feet out, and he had defended a title for the second time – the third, if you count his back-to-back wins with Jaco Prinsloo in the Team Championship in 2019 and 2020.

“Defending is awesome,” he said. “It’s the second time I’ve done it in an individual tournament. It’s really cool, and something special that not many people manage to say they’ve done. To have done it multiple times is amazing.”

It gave him his ninth Sunshine Tour title, and his third Challenge Tour title.

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Behind Mivis in second, Zander Lombard and Bryce Easton shared third with McKibbin on 15-under, while Gutierrez shared sixth with Neil Schietekat.

SA Tour Golf

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