Ruan de Smidt finished first, but all 36 players who received Sunshine Tour cards at the close of Qualifying School on Saturday felt like winners.
ÂI have been hitting it well the whole week, and winning Tour School is really something for me Â it means I can compete with the top guys,Â said De Smidt.
Bloemfontein Golf Club hosted the 68-man finale of a 90-hole endeavour, undertaken by 252 players looking to make their mark in 2012, but only 36 went on to claim Tour cards.
De Smidt was a cool customer and carded 67 to close the tournament at 16-under-par, four strokes clear of runners-up Danie van Tonder and Wesley Worster.
On the final day De Smidt took the game to his competitors, making an eagle at the 15th and carding four birdies during his five-under-par final round. ÂThat eagle was really the moment of my round. I hit driver and then eight-iron to 10 foot and when I sank that putt it was amazing,Â he said.
The front stretch was calm for the 22-year-old Âhe made birdies at the first and fifth, slowly building up his rhythm before turning at one-under for the day.
The last nine of 90 holes of golf would see the Krugersdorp Golf Club professional close in style Â he penciled in no drops on the back stretch and calmly pulled away from the field.
Kyle Scott, Chris Erasmus, Drikus van der Walt, Daniel Hammond, Graham van der Merwe, Francois Coetzee, Thomas Lovett, Juan Langeveld and Francois Haughton respectively made up the remainder of the top 10, all of whom took a cut of the R70,000 prize fund.
But prize money was not the objective Â earning a Tour card was Â Riekus Nortje, Steve Surry, Andre van Zyl, Jacque Etienne van Tonder, Gary Birch, Lean Boezaart, Beyers Smith, Johann Mostert, Willie Steyn, Brendan de Lange, Kevin Stinson, Wendell Bossenger, Pieter Moolman, Michael Hollick, Steven van Heerden, David Ryan, Greg Petzer, Aron Zemmer, Coenie Bester, Teboho Sefatsa, Francois van Vuuren, Nathan Waghorn, Jared Harvey and Martin Du Toit all earned the right to compete next year by finishing within the top 30 and ties.
The round of the day was made by Chris Erasmus, who pulled through when it counted and shot 66 to finish in a share of fifth place. ÂI had big swing changes and took the year off to train – I worked on my game for six hours a day, practicing and grinding it out Â and that paid off this week,Â he said.
Amateur Jared Harvey managed to squeeze into the 2012 Tour – he carded 69 on the final day, closed at level-par and snatched his card. ÂThe nerves and the confidence took a knock when I shot 77 for round one, but I managed to finish birdie, birdie today and sneak in. I have my sights on pro golf and my confidence would have been shattered had it not been my week,Â he said.
For De Smidt it was a long road, but after a grueling trial he proved his mettle and will surely look for Rookie of the Year glory in 2012.