Anton Haig claimed his sixth career title at Irene Country Club on Friday, where he shot a second-round 70 to clinch victory at the Sunshine Big Easy Tour’s Irene tournament.
“I haven’t been in this situation for a while, so it’s nice to pull one off. It was a great day and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said.
The 27-year-old began the final round three shots clear, but a shaky start that included bogeys at the fourth and sixth left him tied for the lead with Englishman Michael Downes on seven-under-par.
Haig had to stay strong after making a further birdie at the 10th, but regrouped with a run of pars before birdieing the 17th and 18th for a four-shot victory.
“It was quite nerve-racking, especially when Mike (Downes) came at me with those early birdies. The pressure got up and I made a few silly drop shots on the first nine, but I pulled it together nicely and finished with two birdies,” he explained.
The Johannesburg local recorded wins on both the Asian and European Tours before his 22nd birthday, but struggled with the limelight. His golf paid the price, and soon the young star was struggling to find confidence on the course.
“This game is all mental, and I’ve been working hard on changing my attitude. You have to get into the right frame of mind, and I’m feeling really positive after this week,” he said.
He’s been given an extra push by his win this week, and heads to play the Asian Tour’s Queen’s Plate on a wave of confidence, looking for a return to former glory.
“It’s good to win on South African soil again. I played lovely this week and it’s a good confidence booster going on to Asia. I’m off to Thailand and Malaysia for two weeks, then I’ll be back here to play a few more Big Easy events,” he smiled.
Downes got off to a hot start, but bogeys at the seventh, eighth and ninth destroyed his hopes of contending. He recovered well, however, and finished tied second on six-under-par.
Also sharing second was Kevin Stone, who shot a second-round 68 to move up the leaderboard. A disappointing par at the par-five 17th meant Stone placed little pressure on Haig, and the latter went on to win comfortably.
Daniel Hammond took home sole fourth on five-under-par after carding a Friday 68, while Juan Langeveld, Johan Bekker and Botswana’s Stuart Smith shared fifth on four-under-par.