England’s Jamie Bower dramatically sank an 18-footer for a last hole birdie and snatched victory in the Gauteng North Open at Irene Golf Club in South Africa.
The 22-year-old from Meltham in Yorkshire finished one shot ahead of South Africa’s Garrick Higgo, who bogeyed the 18th after leading for most of the round.
“This is probably is my biggest win to date and my first outside the UK so it's definitely really special for me” said Bower, who was 13-under for 72 holes.
He was in contention throughout the event and, after a pair of 68s, he held the halfway lead. Bower powered ahead in the third round with 66, but Higgo did even better and his 64 gave him a one-shot advantage with one round left to play.
The South African was sometimes as many as three shots clear of Bower as the round unfolded. But the Yorkshireman, playing in the final group just behind his rival, held on tenaciously and when his chance came on the 18th he grabbed it.
“I heard a few rumours that Garrick had dropped some shots and that I was tied with him coming up the last,” said Bower. “But I didn't know for certain so I just tried to make the best score I could and hope it was enough – luckily that was birdie!
“I had a much shorter putt on a similar line in the morning which I holed so I did fancy it.” It gave him a final round score of one-over 73 while Higgo took 75.
Bower went on: “I had an idea in my head of what score I needed to win and I thought if I could get to 16-under – double my score from the first two rounds – then that would be good enough. I didn't manage it, but thankfully 13-under was good enough.”
Bower is part of an England Golf squad touring South Africa and has got off to a flying start with this win in their first event.
“I've been working very hard on my long game over the winter, under the guidance of England coach Alan Thompson, and I've been hitting the ball great tee to green this week which is very pleasing. I'm obviously delighted to get off to such a good start on the tour and I can't wait for the next event next week.”
Bower was joined in the event by Alfie Plant (Sundridge Park) and Paul Kinnear (Formby) who both made the cut in the championship. Their next date is the South African Stroke Play, which starts on Tuesday at Blue Valley Golf Club.
The Gauteng North Open was previously won by Toby Tree of Sussex in 2012 and 2013.
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