12th November 2017 | Sunshine Tour
Grace wins for SA at Sun City after 10 years
Branden Grace became the first South African in a decade to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player after he shot a flawless six-under-par 66 to total 11-under to win by a single stroke at the Gary Player Country Club on Sunday.
“It’s awesome,” he said of winning what has become known as Africa’s Major. “This is that one event that as a South African you want to win, it’s Africa’s Major for a reason. And what a special place it is, you know? A lot of history and a lot of great winners on the trophy and I’m very glad to put my name on the trophy as well.”
One of the all-time greats Gary Player was one of the first to congratulate him at greenside on the 18th, and that was significant because Player presented him with his first Sunshine Tour trophy back in 2010 when he won the Coca-Cola Championship presented by Gary Player at Fancourt.
Grace entered the final round trailing Scotland’s Scott Jamieson by three shots while he was two behind Victor Dubuisson of France. After making par on the first hole, Grace went on to make birdies on two, five and six and turned in 33. As has been the case for the better part of the week, his back nine was just as solid because he made three more birdies there to sign for a 66.
“I told Zack (his caddie), you know, that if I can get it bogey-free today, I’m going to be in there with a chance,” he said of what went through his mind before the final round. “I managed to do that, hit the ball superbly all day. I gave myself great chances. Didn’t take all of them but I did what I needed to do and it was great to finish, obviously, the way I did. And bogey-free it was.”
Paired with two of the best payers in the tournament in the final round was always going to pose challenges. However, the 29-year-old showed his own class, because, after all, he holds the record for the lowest score in a major championship round with the 62 he shot at The Open at Royal Birkdale in July.
But this was Africa’s Major and Grace was determined to end the streak of foreign players’ domination of the event. And, to make it an even more special victory for Grace, this triumph came during the week in which he found out he was going to have a son.
“I couldn’t have done it without my wife,” he said, “it’s a very special week, you know? We found out on Wednesday that we’re having a boy.”
And his victory here takes his tally to eight European Tour titles and despite winning a Rolex Series event, was mindful of what his victory could mean to South African sports fans.
“It was a harsh weekend for South African sports fans,” he said referring to the Springboks loss to Ireland and Bafana Bafana’s failure to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Russia. “but luckily as it turned out, I’ve now put a smile on a couple of faces.”
This win will set him up nicely for the final event on the European Tour schedule which is the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next week. And it will also push him up significantly on the Official World Golf Ranking standings.