Peter Karmis: Remembering the first 59

Lombard Insurance Classic - Final RoundHe felt as if his second round had put him out of contention in the 2009 Lombard Insurance Classic, and Peter Karmis started the final round with no pressure. And that helped him get the right mind-set to shoot the Sunshine Tour’s first-ever 59.

“I’m speechless right now, I don’t know what to say,” he said after his historic round. “I tried not to think about shooting 59, but when I got an eagle on five, I knew there was a special round happening.”

His astonishing 13-under-par effort, with three eagles and seven birdies, gave him a four-shot margin over the charging Jaco van Zyl, whose six-under 66 didn’t even get him within sniffing distance.

Karmis had shared the opening round lead with Bradford Vaughan and Keith Horne after the trio had carded seven-under-par 65s on the 6,140-metre (6,715-yard) Royal Swazi Sun Country Club, but three bogeys and two double-bogeys in the second round had seen him sign for a two-over 74, and a 36-hole total of five-under-par.

That left him three off the pace set by Van Zyl, who was then in the midst of a hot streak which had started with his Telkom PGA Championship victory in February and had been followed by his second win of the year – also in Swaziland – when he took the Investec Royal Swazi Open.

The final round started innocuously enough for Karmis, as he birdied the first and the fourth, both reasonably easy par-fours. But then, as he recalled, the eagle on the 490-metre (536-yard) fifth, the second-longest hole on the course, set him off on a round for the ages.

With the adrenaline pumping, most golfers start thinking about how it would feel to shoot 59 and blow it. Karmis didn’t. “I tried to play it a little bit conservatively, because that’s the way I need to play in order to shoot a good round. In the end, I just hit it close so many times, that I couldn’t help scoring low,” he said.

It was a masterclass which was enjoyed to a large extent by his playing partners that day, Shaun Norris and Josh Cunliffe. Norris was in shock after signing for a 68 himself: “I played pretty decently, but that was just phenomenal. He never looked like faltering, and there were no fluke shots in the round either.”

As the Karmis group got closer to the 18th, Norris and Josh Cunliffe started to feel the pressure a bit themselves: “As we were standing on the tee, we we’re shaking for him,” said Norris, “just willing him to hit it onto the green.”

Karmis made his par three on the last to secure his place in SA golfing history.

He had no idea how many putts he had. It was 23. It helped that he holed his approach on 13, which meant he didn’t have to putt there.

As the tension ratcheted up, he calmly slotted three birdies in a row on 15, 16 and 17. In fact, the birdie on 17 was so nearly a fourth eagle as his bunker shot slid past the hole by millimetres. And his birdie on 15 came from the only long putt of his round, at about 20 feet.

He calmly got his par on 18, and then the shakes set in as he walked to sign his card, and phone his family to share the news with them.

And this week, he heads back to the Royal Swazi Sun Country Club for the 2015 edition of the Lombard Insurance Classic. “I like this course,” he said.

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