Keith Horne (@keithhorne1) pointed out before he started that experience includes bad memories, but his experience worked in his favour at St Francis Links as he marched to a convincing four-stroke victory on Friday in the R600,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf presented by Samsung.
“I kept it really slow for the first five or six holes,” he said. “I didn’t let the wind or the rain or anything get to me and I got into a rhythm early, and I think that’s where my experience helped.”
Level with Erik van Rooyen at eight-under-par going into the final round of the 54-hole tournament, Horne made his intentions clear from the start with three successive birdies in the opening three holes.
“I made sure I didn’t go out in a tentative frame of mind on the final day,” said Horne, who set up his victory with a course-record 65 in the first round, and followed it with a tentative second round 71. “I really took dead-aim at a lot of the flags early on and it paid off.
“I hit some quality shots early on and made some nice putts. They weren’t too long, but they were sort of slippery and important to make and I couldn’t have asked for a better start. I swung the club really well during the first nine holes and felt really confident.”
Two more birdies and a bogey before the turn saw him head for home in the cool, breezy, rainy weather four shots clear of the considerably less experienced Van Rooyen – exactly the kind of insurance against the kind of bad experience Horne knows only too well from his long career.
It was just as well that he built up that kind of cushion against disaster: Ahead lay the 11th, which course statistics showed was playing nearly a full shot over par, the most difficult hole on the course on the day. And 15 and 16 were no pushovers, either, the second and third toughest holes during the final round.
Both Horne and Van Rooyen duly dropped a shot each on 16 and 17 as the wind picked up around St Francis Links, but, at that point, the lead was enough for Horne to be able to do whatever version of coasting home worked for him, while Van Rooyen was unable to take the kind of risks needed to pressurize the veteran.
At 43, Horne has been a professional for 18 years, and, with that history under his belt, has weathered some storms in his time. And with five Sunshine Tour titles to his name ahead of this one, he was always going to have the edge over Van Rooyen going into the pressure-cooker situation of a final round.
He now heads off to Europe again having put himself in ninth place on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, and with his first victory since the Telkom PGA Championship in 2012, he’s confident that he can win again soon.
“I felt that I could win this week – In fact, I told my daughter I’d win it,” he said. That’s experience talking.