(Photo: Angela Ntenabunga)
On a day when the next best score was a two-under-par 71 at Lusaka Golf Club, Lyle Rowe (@lylerowe12) sailed serenely to his maiden Sunshine Tour title with a closing five-under-par 68 on Sunday to win the R1.2-million Zambia Sugar Open.
His closest pursuer was Neil Schietekat, who carded a level-par 73 to finish at nine-under-par 283, four shots adrift of Rowe who found something in his game ahead of the third round and simply coasted away from the rest of the field.
“I got a nice tip from my mate Jake Redman,” said Rowe. “He helped me a little bit and I just tried to keep that swing thought throughout the week.
“And I putted outstandingly the last two days. That’s basically what it comes down to – purely putting,” he added.
It was going swimmingly for Rowe as he made his fourth birdie of the final round at the 10th. It had been a faultless performance till then, as all about him – behind him, to be more accurate – struggled in the cold wind and on the difficult greens.
And then he bogeyed the 11th. But he stopped the wobble immediately with a well-taken birdie on the 12 – a hole where the green was only cleared for play the day of the first round because of real grass problems on large portions of it – which restored his lead to five over Schietekat.
And then he leapt on the opportunities 13 and 14 offered him: They are both par-fives, and part of the reason that players regarded the back nine as ‘the scoring nine’, and Rowe made no mistake with birdies at each.
Four to go, and the lead was still five as Schietekat matched him with birdies on those two par-fives, as well as with a par on the 15th.
So it really was simple down the stretch – if winning a maiden title can ever be called easy. “It’s nice to get a win under the belt,” he said. “Obviously you wonder when it’s going to come, so to get it done and to get it done on a nice course like this is awesome.
“It was difficult out there with the wind. That made it tricky out there. Coming from the rough meant you were unable to hold the ball on the green. I just had to keep it in play and then take it from there,” he added.
Behind Schietekat, PH McIntyre and Ulrich van den Berg shared third place, with Jared Harvey and Haydn Porteous in a share of fifth.
Rowe’s previous best performance was a second place last September in the Parys leg of the Vodacom Origins of Golf, and after being drenched in champagne and sugar by his mates, he’ll be looking for more wins in events with sponsors which don’t leave him sticky if their products are poured over him.