Clutch putt seals Ekurhuleni Open for Beckley

North West amateur Aubrey Beckley held his nerve over an eight-foot clutch putt at the closing hole to thwart a brave bid by Pretoria duo Zander Lombard and Jason and seal his maiden provincial victory at the Ekurhuleni Open on Sunday.

The 19-year-old Potchefstroom had put himself in contention at Benoni Country Club with rounds of 68-66-73 and signalled his intention with a birdie-eagle start in the final round. Beckley was three under after a bogey-birdie combination just before the turn and birdied the 10th and 15th to edge ahead of the field.

However, a three-putt bogey at the 17th left Beckley tied for the lead with Lombard and Smith.

“I knew I needed to birdie the 18th to win, and I just forced myself to take it shot for shot,” he said. “My tee shot landed to the right, slightly off the fairway. I had 208m to the pin, so I flew a six-iron and the ball landed just to the right, off the green.

“I was definitely feeling the pressure, but I kept my focus on the chip and didn’t think about anything else.”

Beckley executed a perfect chip shot and boxed the birdie putt for a 67 and victory on 14-under-par 130.

The young gun was bathing in the glory of his march to victory, but his parents agonised about news they intentionally kept from him to give him the chance to win. The young gun only learned the next day that his cousin had unexpectedly passed away in a shooting accident.

Beckley immediately dedicated his victory to Thinus Kok.

“Thinus was a great friend, and one of my biggest supporters,” he said. “He always encouraged me to do better. I had a bad day at the office, he would always have a positive message waiting to put me back on track. He believed that you could do anything if you put your mind to it, even if it took a lot of tries.

“His death does not detract from my achievement. I am really proud that I can dedicate this victory to him. You always remember your first win and he will always be part of this memory.”

The victory also boosted Beckley from 41st to 27th in the South African Golf Association’s rankings, more good news for the Potch player.

“That is a real bonus, especially this late in the year,” he said. “I will be basing myself in Johannesburg next year to play golf full time, and hopefully I can improve my ranking, even break into the top 10.”

The North West player added playfully that winning the Ekurhuleni Open also took away some of the sting from the teams recent defeat in the promotion battle recent SA Inter-Provincial, sponsored by Tempest.

“I have to admit, it felt good to come to Ekurhuleni and to clinch their provincial tournament in their back yard after they won promotion at Rustenburg Golf Club. A little payback feels good.”

Local favourite Christiaan Bezuidenhout looked a shoe-in to win, especially after he carded a flawless opening five-under-par 67 to share the lead with Hendrikus Stoop, Paul Boshoff and Beckley. However, Gauteng North’s Teaghan Gauche reeled in three eagles and three birdies for a 63 to overtake the leaders and take pole at 15 under 129 at the halfway mark.

In the third round, Lombard joined the mix with a 68, setting up what turned into a thrilling final round.

When the dust settled, Lombard ensured a joint runner-up finish with a final round 68, Smith joined the former SA number one after carding his third consecutive 69 and Stoop took fourth on 12-under-par 176, one shot ahead Bezuidenhout.

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