Louis Calitz won the maiden Sunshine Big Easy Tour Championship after he shot 73 and retained his lead in the final round of the R250,000 tournament presented by Stonehage at The Els Club, Copperleaf on Friday.
The prizemoney took Calitz to the top of the Order of Merit after the 25-year-old finished the event four strokes ahead of a four-way tie for second between PG van Zyl, Thabang Simon, Dean Burmester and Jeff Inglis.
When Calitz closed the tournament at five-under-par and took his maiden win it was a special moment. ÂIt really felt great, and I had a huge sense of relief when I sank that last putt on the 18th,Â he said.
The Tour Championship field comprised the top 30 players on the Order of Merit and included nine event winners, yet Calitz showed true grit to come out on top with his tally of 211.
He began the day with a three-stroke lead and, despite opening with a pair of bogeys, was able to keep the ship steady while his chasers struggled under pressure and fell behind. ÂIt was a tough start, but I just managed to get my focus from the sixth and then take birdie opportunities when they came,Â he said.
He made the turn at two-over, but showed that he had settled when he carded a string of pars from the sixth to the 11th.
Calitz went on to birdie the 12th, 15th and 16th, but struggled on the 14th and 17th – the two short holes of the back stretch – and shot 35 for his second nine.
His lead, which came on the back of a superb second-round 67, would not be offset by his final day score of one-over-par.
ÂThank you to Stonehage, because The Big Easy Tour has really helped me to compete as a professional and I think this win is a result of that,Â said Calitz.
ÂStonehage has been a very proud sponsor of the Sunshine Big Easy Tour in 2011,Â said Stonehage CEO Giuseppe Ciucci. ÂThe commitment of the Sunshine Tour and that of the players from the start has made this initiative highly successful in its inaugural year. We congratulate the winners of the 10 Tournaments and the Championship Tournament and trust that the Sunshine Big Easy Tour will continue to aid the growth of golf development within South Africa.Â
Dean Burmester led the Order of Merit ahead of the tournament, but an incredibly costly triple-bogey on the 12th left him just shy of CalitzÂs earnings for the year.
For Calitz, the rewards of this event are not just monetary, and it proved fitting that his first career win came at the maiden Tour Championship.