Hennie an emphatic SA Open Champion

Hennie Otto’s name became the 101st carved into the SA Open Championship Trophy after the 35-year-old looked to the heavens as his final putt dropped, clinching the R1,757,765 winner’s cheque.

“This one is special because it’s our national Open. You dream of these things, and with the names that are on the trophy you can really be proud. When it comes your way you must enjoy it,” he said.

A birdie at the 17th would seal the deal for Otto, who shot rounds of 70, 67, 65, 72 to fend off Austrian Bernd Wiesberger. “I knew 17 if you hit a good drive you can get it close to the green, because the pin was in the centre. I said to myself ‘just make sure you focus on the chip shot’. If you give yourself a four or five footer you can do this,” said Otto.

He had first stepped into a three-stroke lead on day three after blazing through the back nine in 30 blows and making a move to 14-under for the first time.

On Sunday he had a steady start, making birdies at the 2nd and 5th and a bogey at the 4th to turn in 35, moving a further stroke ahead of the field.

Despite a birdie at the 11th, the early stages of the back stretch carried some trouble for the Italian Open winner and he dropped at the 13th, 15th and 16th.

By that stage Wiesberger had drawn level with Otto, but the latter displayed his determination and birdied the 17th and left the Austrian behind.

Wiesberger put together a real attempt with his final-round 68, but was unable to cover all of the ground between himself and Otto and finished in sole possession of second.

Meanwhile, Brandon Stone led the amateur race and earned himself the Freddy Tait Cup after carding a final-round 73. He closed the tournament at three-under. “This was the tip of an iceberg that was my fantastic year. I’ve won five (amateur) tournaments this year and I did well at the four nations,” he said.

Ockie Strydom has finished second at three Sunshine Big Easy Tour events this year and used that experience to close with a steady 69 and take a share of third. He earned R589,988 – easily the biggest cheque of his career. “If you’re in contention in the Big Easy Tour, then you learn about a tournament mindset. Suddenly you’re playing one or two shots behind in European Tour, but you’ve learnt to just play the same game,” he said.

England’s Richard McEvoy played consistently throughout the final round. He dropped no shots, made 34 on either side of the turn and closed in a share of third.

Thomas Aiken enjoyed a return to form this week. He shot a final-round 72 to join the three-way tie for third and also took home R589,988.

Otto was emphatic as he sank the putt that won the 101st SA Open.

“It’s wonderful – there are such high standards in golf these days – to see my name on that trophy means so much to me.”

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