Keith Horne has been walking Sunshine Tour fairways since 1996. But it was only on Sunday, as he rolled in a birdie to win the Telkom PGA Championship, that he felt like he truly belonged.
With a final round of 69 at Country Club Johannesburg, Horne won South AfricaÂs second oldest professional tournament by three strokes on 19-under-par.
The 40-year-old professional, who has travelled most of Africa, Asia and Europe in search of titles, has waited a long time for the fifth victory of his career, but by far the biggest.
ÂIt has been a long time coming. IÂm over the moon that I can tick this off. I wouldÂve been disappointed to have played in South Africa for so long and never won a big tournament. And this is a big one. ItÂs been going for many years with so many big names on the trophy. I really feel like IÂm a big player in South Africa now,Â said Horne.
Much like it has been throughout his career, HorneÂs patience was the key to this victory. He took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and birdied two of the first three holes. He added another birdie at the sixth, and then just made his pars as the rest of the field struggled to match his consistency.
Alex Haindl made a run at him on the front nine and closed to within one shot. But his challenge ended with a double bogey on the ninth and then a bogey on 10. Darren Fichardt was denied by his putter on the final day. And even a surging Jaco Ahlers could only get to 16-under with his impressive 66. All three of them shared second place on that total.
As much as he was inwardly frustrated by not making more birdies, Horne could afford a bogey on 17 and then rolled in a five-footer for birdie on 18 to win.
ÂI wasnÂt feeling too much pressure because I was playing well. I really wanted to make that five-footer for birdie at the last to finish on a high. But I felt confident the whole week. ItÂs the first time I felt like I could win, was going to win and did win.Â
And at the age of 40, Horne feels like heÂs just settling into an even better back nine to his career.
ÂIÂve always thought my best golf is still ahead of me. Every year IÂve felt like my golf has been getting better and I havenÂt levelled out yet. So I feel my best is yet to come.Â
HorneÂs consistency has earned him the nickname of ÂATMÂ amongst the Sunshine Tour caddies. Get Keith HorneÂs bag, and you know youÂll earn a cheque.
On Sunday, Horne finally got the payout heÂs been working so hard for.