He was still shaking as he greeted the jubilant caddies, and Justin Harding felt his second career victory was sweeter than his first as he won the R850,000 Lombard Insurance Classic.
He carded a final round two-under-par 70 over the 6,140-metre par 72 Royal Swazi Spa golf course to edge veteran Neil Cheetham by one stroke on a day on which fortunes fluctuated constantly.
ÂIt was hard work out there,Â Harding confessed. ÂI had a bad start, but I managed to hang in there, and although I wasnÂt as good on the greens, I managed to make the one extra putt when I needed it.Â
He was referring to the birdie he made on 502-metre 17th which gave him the lead for the final time.
His approach was just off the green to the right, and his chip came up just six feet short. ÂI wanted to hit that chip to gimme distance, and I was so pleased to make the six-footer,Â he said.
That birdie gave him the lead after Cheetham had moved to 14-under with a birdie of his own on 17. But he gave up the initiative as he found the bunker in front of the green with his tee shot on the 175-metre par-three 18th. His sand shot was short, and he missed the 10-footer for par Â and the door was open for Harding.
In fact, Harding had steadied his ship after bogeys on two and four, and birdies on three, seven and 11 took him to the front again. That birdie on the 400-metre par-fourÂ the most difficult hole on the course. His main rival Louis de Jager made bogey. The two-stroke swing saw Harding draw level with De Jager in the battle of the two players in search of their second victory.
In the meanwhile, Cheetham took on the 12th and made eagle to lift himself into contention. He followed it up with a birdie on 13, and he was suddenly in the race for the title.
De Lager held on for third with his two-under-par 70, while behind him, Jaco Ahlers carded the round of the day, his 66 lifting him into fourth place.
It was his first top-10 since October last year. ÂIt might give me enough money to resume my attempt at making it on the Asian Tour,Â he said. ÂIÂve played one event there, and havenÂt been able to afford to get back. In fact, I nearly didnÂt make it to the previous tournament in Swaziland, because I didnÂt have the money. This is a huge relief for me, and the product of practice, practice and more practice.Â
HardingÂs win lifted him into the top 30 on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, and adds to the first victory he won last October in the Vodacom Origins of Golf series at Oubaai.