Heinrich Bruiners liked the course at Euphoria Golf Estate so much that he said it almost felt like cheating as he marched to his commanding five-stroke victory in the R600,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf event there on Friday.
“It’s a lot like the course I learned my golf on at Fancourt,” said Bruiners after his maiden victory as a professional. “You have to be straight off the tees and good off the fairways, and I certainly felt comfortable with those aspects of my play all week.”
It was an extraordinary win in many ways: He became the first player since Tim Clark won the South African Open Championship in 2002 to go on and win the tournament after having to qualify for it; it was also only the second time in his career that he finished inside the top 10 – he shared fifth in the Polokwane Classic in June; and he overcame injuries caused by a horrific motor accident which kept him out of golf for the whole of 2011.
“I’m thinking of my father at this time,” he said a little tearfully afterwards. “He was one of the only people who believed I’d come back from the injuries and be able to win.”
Bruiners started as nervously as he thought he would when he held the overnight lead by four strokes: He made pars on the first two holes, but then consecutive bogeys on three and four seemed to have put the skids under his victory charge.
“To be honest, I was actually quite relaxed, but I was shaky on the opening holes,” he said. "And when I made those two bogeys in a row, I told myself to go back to the processes which had worked all week for me.”
The pressure at that stage was compounded by players like Jake Roos and Adilson Da Silva – both multiple winners on the Sunshine Tour winners – making as much of a charge as the difficult 7,040-metre Annika Sorenstam-designed course allowed on a cold, blustery, and even rainy day.
That he had made only one bogey so far during the tournament – and only two during the pre-qualifier – added to the pressure he was feeling as he approached the turn, but Bruiners responded with a precision chip to inside two feet on 18 and a tap-in birdie to encourage him for the homeward nine.
But a bogey on 10 quickly deflated him, and, as Roos birdied 12 up ahead of him, his overnight lead had shrunk to one, and it appeared probable he would have to concede victory to the experience of his opponents.
“I’d felt so pumped by the birdie on nine, so it was disappointing to make the bogey on 10,” he said. “I three-putted there – just about putted it off the green!”
But he hit back with his only eagle of the tournament just when he needed it. He got down in three on the 530-metre par-five 12th, and then followed it up with a birdie three on the 13th – and the gap had suddenly become wide enough for him to have some breathing room on the cruise to the 18th.
“I watched the other guys using three-wood off the tee on 12, but I stuck to my three-iron like I did all week,” he said. “I hit three-iron, three-iron to 18 or 20 feet, and then made the putt, and I just felt all the pressure dissolve.”
The birdie on 13 was all he needed as his pursuers now had too much to do, and he was able to coast to his victory.
“I had a chat with a buddy as we arranged to get to the next pre-qualifier together,” he said. “Now I’m going to text him, and tell him I’ll be getting there a little later.”
That’s because he’s exempt into all Sunshine Tour events until the end of 2014.