14th January 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Flawless Paisley marches to BMW SA Open title
England’s Chris Paisley found it difficult to believe he had played that well after he carded a flawless final-round six-under-par 66 to take the BMW South African Open Championship proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni at Glendower Golf Club.
His three-stroke victory over South African fan favourite Branden Grace broke local fans’ hearts, but it was a display that showed he was a worthy champion as the hometown charge ended up falling short of his brilliant efforts which netted him his first professional title.
“I didn’t think I was capable of playing that well in that scenario,” said Paisley. “Just to go out and play that solid is amazing.”
It looked likely that Grace was going to run away with the title after Paisley found his overnight one-shot lead erased as the South African started birdie-eagle to hit the front.
Paisley, who had his wife Keri on his bag, had made birdie on two in a solid start, and found himself trailing. “I actually just looked over at Keri and just kind of laughed,” he said. “I started par-birdie which I was really happy with but he went birdie-eagle so, I mean there’s obviously a long way to go after that – still 16 holes – so I knew I just had to keep plugging away and hope for the best.”
The best was good enough for five more birdies on his way to his win, while Grace made double-bogey five on the sixth and bogey on 12 to relinquish whatever edge he might have had over Paisley as Grace’s frustration at not being able to sink any meaningful putts grew.
As the end drew nearer, Paisley also had to deal with a crowd that was increasingly vocal in its desire to see a South African champion crowned. “I actually enjoyed it,” he said. “They were obviously a lot louder for his good shots but that’s obviously understandable. I loved it. And as it became clear to them that I was going to win, they became very supportive, and I really appreciated it. And the reception they gave me as I walked up the 18th is something that I want to experience every time I play.”
After Grace made bogey on 12, he threw the kitchen sink at Paisley in an attempt to catch him. He made eagle on 13, and consecutive birdies in 15 and 16. But birdies of his own on the homeward par-fives, the 13th and 15th, saw Paisley safely home.
“He was flawless from the start to the end,” said Grace. “He was really great under the pressure. Every time I threw something at him, he responded, so it was good. It’s not the result I wanted but I will take the second on my first week back.”
Behind Grace, Zimbabwe Open champion JC Ritchie carded a superb seven-under 65 to charge into third place, while Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent and the South African duo of Jacques Kruyswijk and Jacques Blaauw shared fourth spot.
For Paisley, the significance of the victory is huge. “It’s kind of hard to think about that right now,” he said. “I’m just so happy with how the week went and to get the win, for not only myself and Keri, but for everyone that’s stood behind me. My family, my Mum and Dad, my brothers, my coaches that I’ve been with for a long time, Callaway for sticking with me.”
He also has his name of the trophy of the second-oldest national open championship in the world.