East London’s Phillips shakes the bridesmaid tag

Norman Phillips wore the bridesmaid tag three times in June, but the 53-year-old East London golfer finally got the monkey off his back when he marched to his first provincial Senior Amateur victory in the Jacobsen’s Eastern Cape Senior Championship on Sunday.

Phillips carded rounds of 73 and 69 at the par-71 St Francis Bay Golf Club to beat De Zalze’s Francois le Roux by one stroke on a winning total of even-par 142. The Border golfer was absolutely ecstatic to break into the winners’ circle after three years and too many close calls to count.

“I gave up golf for 15 years and only started playing again when I turned 50,” Phillips explained.

“The first year was a bit of a grind, but last season I enjoyed a couple of runner-up and top five finishes and I knew it was a matter of staying patient.

“I was knocking in the last three events, but I just couldn’t pull through for a win, so to finally break down that door is the sweetest feeling in the world.”

His run of second place finishes began in June, when Phillips lost the Southern Cape Seniors Open at George Golf Club to Ben Kleynhans by one stroke.

A month later, he finished in second place again, three shots off the pace from Le Roux at the Harold Whitfield Border Open at East London Golf Club. Just two days later, Phillips was leading the Eastern Cape Seniors Open with three holes to play when Rinus van Niekerk birdied three of the last four holes at the infamous Gary Player layout at the Fish River Sun Country Club to win the tournament. Again, Phillips was demoted to a tie for second, this time alonside his namesake, Morgan Phillips.

But on Sunday, Phillips had the measure of the field and a chasing pack that included Le Roux, Van Niekerk and Humewood’s David Konzani.

A couple shots off the pace after an opening 73, the East London golfer got off to a solid start in the second round with a birdie at the second hole. After a mid-nine stumble with a double bogey and bogey at the fifth and sixth holes, he steadied the ship with a birdie at the ninth and turned in one-over.

Phillips opened the throttle with back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th and put the finishing touches to a flawless back nine with a birdie at the ninth for his one shot triumph.

“I have to say, it really feels good to get the monkey off my back,” said Phillips. “It’s been a long time coming, and right now I’m just basking in the moment. Hopefully I can carry this form for a couple of months and be in with a chance at the INDWE SA Senior Amateur Stroke Play at Fancourt in October.”

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