Ross McGowan knew exactly how he was going to approach the back nine on Sunday, and it was mission accomplished as he marched to a two-shot victory in the R3.2-million Mopani/Redpath Zambia Open at Nkana Golf Club.
The Englishman closed out his maiden Sunshine Tour victory with three successive birdies for his final-round of five-under-par 67 and a 13-under-par aggregate, and go racing by Danie van Tonder, who had set the clubhouse target at 11-under-par with his fine 66.
“I said to my caddie after I had made pars at 14 and 15 that I thought I needed to get to 12-under if I was to have a chance of winning,” he said. “Even though I had battled on the back nine in the third round, I planned to just get around the front nine with minimal damage, and then to attack on the back nine.”
And attack he did, breezing by overnight leader Rhys West in the process, and chasing down Van Tonder with impressive golf. “I just fired at the flags on those final holes,” said McGowan. In the end, West carded a level-par 72 to finish alone in third. In the end, the four bogeys he made on his closing nine hurt his cause.
McGowan’s experience – a victory on The European Tour and two on the Challenge Tour, as well as one last month in Morocco on the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Tour – was decisive in the end. West and McGowan’s playing partner Erik van Rooyen, who carded a one-under 71, were both seeking their maiden Sunshine Tour victories, and couldn’t keep the bogeys off their cards as the pressure mounted towards the end.
“I don’t think you ever get used to the process of winning,” said McGowan, “but I do think that having been there before helps. I guess it comes down to composure and just believing in yourself, and trying to trust your game and your swing.”
The victory was about more than the swing: Putting on the difficult Nkana greens was challenging, but, as his six birdies showed, he made more than his fair share of putts. “I left myself a few testers down the stretch, but nothing over four feet,” he said. “Then on the par-five 17th, I knocked it on the edge of the green for two, so I left myself a foot-and-a-half for birdie. And on 18, it was a six-footer, and at that point, it was almost close my eyes and hope it goes in.”
It never looked like missing, and the man who had been in contention throughout wrapped things up.