His sense of relief was palpable as Oliver Bekker sank his birdie putt to win the R600,000 Northern Cape Classic by five strokes at Kimberley Golf Club on Saturday.
It was his maiden victory as a professional after 90 starts, and after coming close a number of times Â notably last November in the Nashua Masters where he made two consecutive bogeys to close and finish second to Warren Abery Â the 26-year-old Stellenbosch resident made sure of victory by leading from start to finish.
ÂIt feels great to get the first one, and I hope itÂs the first of a few more,Â he said.
Rookie Bryce Easton was second Â his best finish on the Sunshine Tour, although he has a victory on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage Â after he, too, made birdie on 18 to move to 10-under-par for the tournament and break out of a group of players on nine-under.
In that group was Des Terblanche, who was a member at Kimberley as a youngster when he won the 1983 World Junior Championship, as well as Louis de Jager, Charl Coetzee, Albert Pistorius and Ulrich van den Berg.
A further two strokes back from that big group, in a share of eighth, were Wynand Dingle and Trevor Fisher Jnr Â and it took an eagle putt of 20 feet from just left of the green on the 18th for Fisher to get to one-under for his round.
Bekker took a five-stroke lead into the final round over his playing partners Easton and Colin Nel.
ÂI felt pretty confident that the cushion would be enough,Â said Bekker, Âbut you can never be sure of things.Â
So when he got off to a fast start with three consecutive birdies, he laid down a marker that was tough for any of the opposition to match.
ÂThat settled me down a lot,Â said Bekker. ÂI never felt as if I had to get too attacking, but I still played some good shots out there.Â
He eventually closed with a three-under-par 68, matching the three bogeys on his card with three more birdies after that great start.
ÂThe putter was working for me all week,Â he said, and it was evident as he confidently rammed home the little three-footer for birdie on 18 which could easily have turned into a little knee-trembler.
Behind him, Nel had what he called Âa bad day at the officeÂ for his two-over-par 73, which saw him slip down the leaderboard into a share of 15th.
BekkerÂs win vaulted him into 13th spot on the 2011 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit Â nicely placed ahead of the rich summer events which are now just weeks away.