Johannesburg – It was the worst of times in a tournament like no other, but for South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence it was the best of times as he emerged champion of the Joburg Open as the event was reduced to 36 holes, on Saturday, at Randpark Golf Club.
Lawrence was four shots ahead on 12-under after successive rounds of six-under 65 on Friday, before it was announced that the tournament would shortened to 54 holes. This was to accommodate international players attempting to navigate the new travel ban from South Africa due to the new Omicron Covid-19 variant discovered by local scientists.
On Saturday, Lawrence had finished just two holes when play was suspended due to lightning in the area.
It was an anti-climax to the first tournament of the DP World Tour (formerly known as the European Tour) co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour. For the 24-year-old Lawrence, however, it was the moment of a lifetime.
“It’s been a lifelong dream. [My life from a week ago], it’s a world apart. It’s going to take a while for this to sink in, but this is a life-changing moment. I wouldn’t have thought a week ago I’d be standing here,” said Lawrence.
“The weather predictions were fine when we teed off this morning. I thought I still had a job to do. It turned out a bit sour for other guys, but it was not in our control.”
While Lawrence was content to play on the Sunshine Tour, the opportunity to play on the DP World Tour and one day the US PGA Tour was the ultimate goal he explained.
“[The win] It changes a lot of things, it gives me the opportunity to get to the [US] PGA Tour quicker. I wasn’t sure where I was going to play this year. I obviously have my card on the Sunshine Tour, but I really wanted to move on to the next step. And it happened so quickly.”
As an added bonus, the first three players on the leaderboard also qualified for The Open to be held at St Andrews in July. SA’s Zander Lomard was second on eight-under, and England’s Ashley Chesters was tied for third on seven-under with another South African Shaun Norris. With Norris already exempt for The Open, Lawrence, Lombard and Chesters earned the three tickets to the major.
Lawrence said: “It’s the best feeling in the world. Everyone wants to play a major and to play at the home of golf and your first major, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
In 2018, Lawrence won his first Big Easy event at Parkview Golf Club - the developmental tour in South Africa. In 2019, he won his first Sunshine Tour event at the Vodacom Origins in Stellenbosch.
To suddenly be crowned a European Tour winner, left Lawrence truly stunned.
“I’ve been playing in co-sanctioned events for four years, but this is unbelievable.
“It’s been a goal [winning on the European Tour], you want to see yourself up there. But the last year-and-a-half with Covid, it’s been tough. You see your dream fade, and for it to change this week…I’m shaking. I didn’t see that coming so quickly.”
In fact, when the players were initially called off Lawrence believed they would soon return to the course.
“They told us it could be a half-an-hour storm, so I was still in the moment ready to go out and complete my round. I wasn’t thinking it would turn out like this. There was a lot of confusion and a lot of rumours [before they made the final announcement.”
African News Agency (ANA)