JJ Senekal’s playoff win at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final on Friday was a trial by fire, but the 25-year-old emerged triumphant over local favourite Titch Moore on the second extra hole at St. Francis Links.
“It really hasn’t sunk in,” said Senekal, who became the third maiden winner on the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series this year. “I’ve dreamt of winning for a long time and now I’ve finally done it!”
The Stellenbosch local bogeyed 14, 15 and 16 to slip back to three-under, but his demeanour from there onward was that of a seasoned professional. The pressure converted coal to diamond and he drained a 12-footer for birdie on 17 and moved within two of the lead.
On the 18th Senekal chose to attack, carving his drive close to the lateral water hazard that lies left of the fairway. His approach stopped just on the fringe, 25 feet below the hole.
Meanwhile, Titch Moore held a two-stroke lead and found the 18th fairway with his drive. It seemed to be a cut-and-dried case until the six-time Sunshine Tour winner flew the green into a bunker, leaving himself a tricky up-and-down for par.
The 100-strong crowd applauded the leaders as they approached the green and then it was Senekal’s turn to putt. From the edge he found the perfect line and length, sinking for birdie and following up the stroke with a huge fist pump.
“I did think I was out of it and making birdie on 17 was crucial. On 18 I saw Titch go into the bunker and I just focused on getting it on the green and making the putt. There was no way I was going to leave it short!” he said.
Moore, at that stage only one stroke ahead, splashed out to 20 feet and then missed his 20-foot par putt for the win.
After signing their cards the two players were all-square on a four-under-par total, which meant repeat trips down the 18th.
On the first playoff hole both players striped the fairway with their drives. Senekal’s approach came up short and backslid to 10 feet short of the green, but he made a solid up-and-down for par. Moore made a regulation par and the pair returned to the 18th tee.
Both players kept their drives far to the right as insurance against the water hazard. Moore pushed his approach left and plugged it into the front lip of a greenside bunker. Senekal took note and succeeded in playing his approach to the middle of the green.
Moore was the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final winner at St Francis in 2007, but Friday was not his day. From the bunker he closed the club face completely in an attempt to salvage his chances at victory, but two unsuccessful whacks proved that a miracle shot was beyond his powers.
Senekal ran his birdie putt five feet past the hole, but made the par putt coming back and claimed the last Vodacom Origins of Golf trophy of the season.
“Some of the maiden winners from this year have inspired me, like Neil Schietekat at the Platinum Classic and Heinrich Bruiners at Vodacom Origins of Golf Euphoria. They’ve shown me that any of us can win, and today is a result of that,” he said.