“This is one for the old boys! We’ve been out here a long time and you have to play really well to compete again the younger guys these days. The youngsters hit so far and play fearless golf, so it feels good to win,” he smiled.
The 46-year-old veteran hung tough in windy conditions and birdied the 18th to pip runners-up Lindani Ndwandwe and Toto Thimba by one stroke.
“It was tough today,” said Stone. “The wind was blowing and swirling a lot, so it was very difficult to get it close to the hole. I was fortunate enough to birdie the last hole and managed to beat Lindani and Toto by a shot.”
On Wednesday only 13 players broke par at the 6659-metre layout, eight less than the previous round. Stone began the day one stroke off the pace and carded a solid 71 to clinch victory.
“Every time I go out I like to set different goals to just winning. It’s about giving myself a different focus, and that really helps to get your mind right. It allows you to play golf on your terms,” he said.
The Pretoria local finished tied second at Big Easy Irene three weeks ago, but at Benoni he was the man of the moment.
While Thimba faltered after making a double-bogey at the first, Stone picked his holes and made three birdies before the turn for a two-shot cushion heading into the stretch.
The back nine was tough for all. Stone felt the full effect when his approach on 17 found a water hazard left of the green. He went on to make double and slipped back into a three-way tie for the lead on five-under-par.
Experience told at the par-five 18th, where Divan Gerber carded a nine and threw away the 2012 tournament. Stone was wiser and hit his approach from to the middle of the green. He two-putted for birdie and secured the win.
“It’s got to do with practice and belief. I’ve been in this situation quite a few times and I think it comes down to experience, to hitting the right shots at the right time,” said Stone.