Haydn Porteous marched to a two-stroke victory in the Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Sunday and claimed a maiden Sunshine Tour victory which has turned round his fortunes in the most dramatic way.
He carded a final-round of three-under-par 69 on his way to a tournament total of 18-under-par, two shots clear of Zander Lombard, and he did it by changing the way he normally does things.
“I’m normally a feel player,” said Porteous, “and, watching Brandon Stone win the BMW SA Open last week with his really methodical approach was a kick up the butt for me as well as an inspiration.”
It caused him to re-evaluate the way he prepares for tournaments, and he approached the Joburg Open with a game-plan which helped him successfully grapple with the difficulties posed during the final two rounds on the East Course at Royal.
“I knew that today was going to be quite tough – tough pins, playing as long as it possibly could – and I just thought if I hit lots of fairways and lots of greens, I knew I would probably shoot under par,” he said. “It wasn’t a lot under par but 69 did the job and I couldn’t be happier right now.”
He started off shakily, pulling his tee shot on the first. But he recovered, and he went about his business by aiming first for par, before trying to get shots back from a challenging course. He made seven consecutive pars before he registered his first birdie, and then it was as if his instinct to push for victory kicked in.
He reeled off a succession of delightful approach shots, and that string of precision culminated in what he called ‘the best five-iron of my life’ as he stuck his approach to the 18th to within 15 feet. He was nervy over the eagle putt, but he was safely down for birdie and the victory was his.
The victory came in large part because he hit every single green in the final round in regulation, and it was only a few putts that slipped by the hole which prevented him from winning by a wider margin.
And, after missing out on gaining his European Tour card through the Challenge Tour, and then missing out at The European Tour Qualifying School, missing the cut in last week’s SA Open left him as low as he could be. The turnaround win has given him European Tour playing privileges until the end of 2017.
Lombard also made birdie on the last to secure his second place, with four players sharing third on 15-under-par: Bjorn Akesson of Sweden, South African Justin Walters, Daniel Im of the United States and Anthony Wall of England.
Lombard and Wall will join Porteous at this year’s Open Championship at Royal Troon, as the Joburg Open was one of the tournaments in The Open Qualifying Series, in which the top three players not otherwise qualified get in to the world’s oldest major championship. Wall edged out the others on 15-under by virtue of his higher world ranking.
“It’s any golfer’s dream to play in the Open Championship,” said Porteous. “It’s something I didn’t think I was going to get into this year, and through winning this, I’m in! Words can’t describe how happy I am right now.”
His victory underscored the rise of a new generation of young players on the Sunshine Tour after Stone’s victory last week, and, with Lombard turning 21 on Monday, the future of South African golf is bright.