It took him over three years to get his fourth victory on the Sunshine Tour, and Oliver Bekker got it done on Saturday with a one-stroke victory over Shaun Norris in the Sun City Challenge played at the Gary Player Country Club.
Bekker carded a final-round of three-under-par 69 to pull clear of Norris with whom he shared the 36-hole lead. He finished on six-under-par 210, and Ockie Strydom was third behind Norris on four-under-par for the tournament, with Danie van Tonder, who closed with a 67, the best round of the day, in fourth a further three strokes back.
“The win is a big surprise, to be honest,” said Bekker. “I haven’t been playing the best golf, but I found a little something and I was trying to rely on that. I was trying to remember all the good rounds and good shots that I played before, because there’s a lot of pressure out there.”
It’s been a tough first half of the year for Bekker, who has twice finished inside the top 10 on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit. He has missed five cuts, including in last week’s tournament on the Wild Coast, and has finished inside the top 20 just once in the seven tournaments in which he has made the cut.
In addition, he has not been able to make any headway in his attempt at carving out a niche for himself on the European Challenge Tour, missing three cuts in four tournaments. So this win means a lot to him. “I’m very happy and very proud of how I handled myself,” he said.
He must have thought all the work he did in the second round when he joined the lead with his five-under 67 was going to be undone when he bogeyed the second hole in the final round. But he followed that with five birdies in six holes from the fifth to the 10th, and that edged him in front.
Norris played well too, and when he birdied the 11th, he drew level with Bekker at seven-under. Both players dropped at the par-three 12th, but it was a double-bogey for Norris who then bogeyed 13 too. He made a birdie on 14, but he was unable to get back on even terms with Bekker down the stretch.
“Shaun and I are good mates,” said Bekker, “so it’s tough – you root for each other, but at the back of your mind is always the thought that you have to make whatever he makes. But it was good to play with someone who was also playing nicely and we were feeding off each other.”
In the end, Bekker was able to hold on, and, even so, he’s not entirely sure that he is back at the top of his game. “I’m going to play the next couple of Sunshine Tour events and see how it goes,” he said.