Chris Swanepoel loves nothing more than a good scrap, match-play style, and he used that to help him to a win over Ulrich van den Berg on Friday to take the R700,000 Sun Boardwalk Challenge at Humewood Golf Club.
The pair were locked on eight-under-par 208 after the 54 holes of regulation play, and it took an extra trip up the 18th before Swanepoel birdied the first hole of the sudden-death play-off to win his fourth Sunshine Tour title, and his second in a play-off.
“This was my third play-off and my second time winning from one,” he said. “It’s not ideal to be in a play-off, but I think I’m a good match-play player, so I tried to play match-play against Ulrich.”
The pair finished three shots clear of Andrew Georgiou, Lindane Ndwandwe and Mark Fensham.
In the end, Swanepoel carded a level-par 72 in regulation play after Van den Berg missed an eagle putt by a fraction on the 16th while Swanepoel scrambled a good par after time was running out on a ball search for his tee shot which had strayed well right into some thick grass.
“I’m glad they found my ball in the mealies there,” laughed Swanepoel. “Luckily I’m from Warmbaths so I’m used to the thick stuff.”
The pair matched pars on the 17th, and then Swanepoel pushed his tee shot on 18 in regulation right. His clubhead got caught up in the rough so his approach was left well short. He scrambled his way to a bogey while Van den Berg made par to force the play-off.
Van den Berg’s approach in the play-off came up short on 18 while Swanepoel hit his to five feet. “I had 124 yards to the flag, with the wind off the left a little bit,” said Swanepoel. “I had a wedge in my hand, and I just tried to drift it in there. But the job wasn’t done yet.
“Fortunately, Ulrich’s first putt in the play-off ended up outside mine, so he had to putt again. So I knew I had to knock it in to win, or just two-putt to go back to the 18th tee again.
“I’ve been putting very well. My dad helped me a lot – and that’s the main thing. You’ve got to putt to win, and I’ve been hitting very good putts the whole week. My putting is why I won.”
And it meant he did not have to play 18 a third time on Friday: “I don’t like the wind off the left,” he laughed.
His winnings took him to 15th on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, in what is comfortably his best year since he turned professional in 2003.