Ruan claims maiden win at Suncoast

In spite of his rookie status, Ruan de Smidt shot a confident 71 at Durban Country Club on Saturday to win the Suncoast Classic, his maiden title, by four strokes.

“I didn’t feel nervous until the last tee shot. I had a three-stroke lead and I just wanted to hit it into the fairway. I’m very happy and excited for the end of the year now that I’ve got my first win,” he said.

De Smidt broke par in all three rounds for a wire-to-wire victory at a club that’s hosted the SA Open 17 times. He netted a cool R95,100 in the process.

“I just played really well this week,” he said. “Neil Schietekat spoke to me when we were flying down from Joburg and his advice was to not use driver a lot. I hit lots of two-irons this week and I hardly missed the fairway – that helped a lot.”

A bogey marked the first was the first signs of nervousness, but the Qualifying School winner quickly regained his composure. The nerves kicked in a second time on the stretch and he bogeyed at 16 and 17, but birdied 18 to finish in style.

“I just didn’t want to mess it up. I started with a stupid drop this morning and decided that I needed to play solid golf – the way I had been through the week. I putted well the whole week and that birdie just settled me down a little,” he said.

The youngster celebrated his 23rd birthday just two days ago, and couldn’t have asked for a better present as the Sunshine Tour heads into summer.

“I’ve definitely got a lot more confidence now. Last week I missed the cut – I played terribly. This week’s win really turns that around and I’m looking forward to my next year of golf,” he said.

De Smidt had an early start during round one, which helped him avoid intense winds and card 69 on Friday. The following day he braved the afternoon winds, hitting low shots and playing smart golf to reach the clubhouse in 68 blows, earning a three-stroke lead ahead of the final round.

Rookies on tour have to pre-qualify for nearly every tournament. De Smidt’s victory will secure his entry into plenty of events over summer, including next week’s ISPS Handa Matchplay Championship.

“I’ve got no idea what I’ll get up to over the next few days, but I’ll celebrate a bit. We’ve got the ISPS Handa Matchplay in two days, and I need to be ready for that. I’ll have some confidence going into it without having to pre-qualify,” he said.

The rewards don’t end there – he earns an impressive 130 Investec Cup points. These points go toward qualifying for the Investec Cup, a tournament with a field consisting of the top 30 in points standings, who will play for a R6-million pot. 13 Tournaments, starting with the BMG Classic and ending with Telkom PGA Championship, carry such points.

De Smidt was not thinking too far ahead.

“I was very glad it’s over,” he said. “I don’t know if I would have made it through another two holes. After the drop, drop finish making birdie on the last was fantastic.”

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