Rookie Claassen gets first win as he triumphs in Namibia

He was just trying to get it close on the 16th, but when his putt from two metres off the green on the 16th went in, JG Claassen had made the putt which won him the R1.2-million MTC Namibia PGA Championship.

It gave the rookie his maiden victory in just his fifth tournament as a professional, and it came in just the second event in which he made the cut.

“It’s been a bit of struggle,” he admitted after he’d sunk to his knees in relief on his way to sign his scorecard, “but this more than makes up for the tough times I’ve had this year.”

After that monster putt, he went on to card a final-round six-under-par 65 on the 6,570-metre par-71 Windhoek Country Club, and it was fitting that the best round of the day should win the tournament.

He finished on 16-under-par 268, one stroke clear of overnight leader Christiaan Basson, with Josh Cunliffe a further two shots behind.

“Christiaan had a putt for birdie on 16,” said Claassen, “so I was just trying to get mine close, take par and get going again on 17.”

Instead, it was the second big putt in a row that went down for him, and he was suddenly in pole position as he walked up the 18th fairway after his approach shot found the fringe to the left of the big green.

He putted again, but he went three feet past the hole, leaving himself with a knee-trembler to secure the victory.

But it went securely into the hole, and Basson paid dearly for his dropped shot on the second – a fault which Claassen managed not to duplicate throughout a flawless final round.

He missed the cut in his first tournament as a pro in the Joburg Open, but two weeks later, he earned his first cheque with a share of 20th in the Zimbabwe Open – it was for R14,291.66.

He then missed cuts in the Dimension Data Pro-Am and the Telkom PGA Championship, prompting him to head to Namibia more in hope than in confidence.

His length off the tee immediately caught the eye, and he opened with a respectable two-under 69.

A pair of consecutive 67s put him in contention going into the final round, and he handled the pressure of trying to chase down Basson, who held a two-stroke edge, with aplomb – apparently.

“I did feel the pressure,” he admitted, “but I just concentrated on what I was doing, and, when I got those birdies on 15 and 16, I knew I had a chance.”

That chance gave him a cheque which vindicates the decision of any successful amateur to turn pro – it was for R190,200.

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