Justin Harding had to contend with strong winds coming down the stretch on Saturday at Langebaan Country Estate, but he managed to birdie the 18th twice in a row for a playoff victory at the Vodacom Origins of Golf presented by Samsung.
“I was quite focused on getting the job done. I put two good shots in on 18 during regulation play and gave myself a chance, which is what I wanted to do. I’m super pleased with the result and hopefully this jump-starts the year,” he said.
The four-time Sunshine Tour winner had to chase down Vaughn Groenewald, who shot a final-round 66 and set the clubhouse target on eight-under-par.
Harding, cheered on by his family, was up to the task and carded 32 on the back nine to match the lead and force a sudden-death playoff, which meant extra trips down the 18th.
“It’s easier when you know what needs to be done, because it’s win or go home. Vaughn set a good target and fortunately I matched him. My family was watching, my mom saw me win for the first time, and it was great to have their support in such trying conditions,” said the 29-year-old.
On the first playoff hole he found the fairway with his drive and then played an approach to 40 feet from the cup. Groenewald, meanwhile, had hit a wayward tee shot into a water hazard. He went on to play his approach to the right fringe of the green, from where he had a 35-footer for birdie, which came up short.
Harding nearly holed his initial putt for eagle and was left with a tap-in for his first victory of 2015.
“Financially-speaking I had my best season last year, but I didn’t get a win and it was weighing down on my mind. It was awesome to get one again and have the feeling of knocking it in and picking up the trophy,” said the Stellenbosch local.
The highlight of the final round, outside of the playoff birdie, was Harding’s eagle three at the 12th hole. The two-shot gain put him straight back into contention and was the foundation for his round of 68 on Saturday.
“I knew I was thereabouts going into the back nine, I just needed to get off to a good start. I made eagle on 12, which was huge. It pretty-much put me back in the game.
“I played it a bit safe off the tee and then hit four-iron in from about 206 metres. I hit a high cut in there and had about 12 feet to the pin. I knew that the eagle was make-or-break, so sinking that putt was crucial,” he said.
The future is looking bright for Harding, who will look to bigger and better things with this victory under his belt.
“We don’t have much on in the next couple of months, but hopefully I can take this form into the rest of the year and compete with the same confidence at bigger events,” he said.