Defeat in a tournament in June inspired Neil Schietekat to his maiden Sunshine Tour victory on Saturday when he won the Platinum Classic at Mooinooi Golf Club by three strokes.
He closed with a four-under-par 68 for a 54-hole total of 15-under-par total of 201 to hold off Jaco Ahlers, whose three-under 69 saw him finish on 204. James Kamte was third after a closing 70 put him on 205 for the R500,000 tournament.
“Not winning never really bothered me,” said Schietekat, “until I came second at the Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament at Simola. I told myself I should have won that one, and I started to take steps to fix things.
“I’ve been working hard on the mental side of things, and that makes a big difference. I won’t tell you what goes on in my head, but it’s some strange stuff, I can tell you,” he added.
A string of 11 cuts made – the best such stretch of his career – with two top-10 finishes, including that second place at Simola, shows he has stepped things up a gear, and the eventual ease of his victory confirmed that.
An eagle early on in his opening nine holes propelled Schietekat clear of his pursuers, and birdies on seven, eight and nine gave him a comfortable cushion on a cold, blustery day.
The eagle came on the 404-metre par-four third, and, while it was a little fortunate, it was enough to give him the confidence to play conservatively all the way home, as he parred his way around the second nine to cruise to his win – and not even the bogey on 18 could mute his celebration.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said with one breath, and, “It hasn’t really hit me yet,” with the next.
That closing string of pars threatened to make things difficult for him. “I was getting tense, because I was hitting great shots, but not making any putts,” he said. “Some of those putts were big swingers, moving two or three feet, because I was ending up on the wrong side of the holes.”
And while he was not making the gap between himself and his pursuers any bigger, the reality was that no-one was able to claw back any of the five strokes he picked up in the opening nine.
“I was worried about the experienced guys ahead of me,” he said, “but, by the time I reached 17 and 18, I was pretty sure I’d done enough.
“I’d used driver all week on 17, but I took my two-iron out, laid up with a five-iron and took my two putts on the green for par. And, on 18, I got careless with the tee-shot. I knew I’d won, and I didn’t go through my normal pre-shot routine. But the bogey was no problem.”
The careful build-up to success means Schietekat is looking forward to the Sunshine Tour’s summer events, where careers can be made and burnished.
“Maybe the floodgates will open now,” he said.
Pictures by Melissa Nijhuis