Persistent Watson wins Volvo SA Mid-Amateur

A birdie at the 10th and a Seve Ballesteros-style bunker shot at the 12th boosted Graeme Watson’s flagging confidence and carried the Ebotse golfer to victory at the Volvo South African Mid-Amateur Stroke Play Championship on Friday.

Watson carded rounds of 70, 71, 70 and 73 at Ruimsig Country Club to claim a four shot victory over Modderfontein’s Steve Williams on a winning score of four-under-par 284.

In the last three years, the country’s former number one notched a fourth, third and second in the prestigious championship, and not even a bogey finish could detract from his joy at lifting the title.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” the 47-year-old Ekurhuleni golfer said.

“I didn’t think I would get the chance to win this championship. It has been touch and go with my knee injury and I had to curtail my schedule, so this was really do or die.

“The wind was pumping and the course was playing very, very tough and I thought I threw it away at the start. I’m pleased that I clawed my way back to win, because this is a huge box ticked in my career.”

Watson set out with a four shot overnight lead, but a triple bogey start nearly ruined his chances.

“I three-putted the first and third holes,” Watson said. “That opened the door for Steve, who picked up two birdies to close the gap.

“The birdie at the 10th gave me a little breathing room, but when I plugged my tee shot in the face of the first fairway bunker at the 12th, I thought it was game over.”

Watson, who held the number one spot in the Mid-Amateur rankings for more than two years, is renowned on the mid-amateur circuit for his remarkable short game, but now he can add trap shots to his repertoire.

With one leg in the sand, he pulled off the shot of the tournament when he mailed the trap shot 265 meters to finish eight feet from the pin.

Boosted by the par-save, Watson picked up another birdie at the 14th. A perfect tee shot to three feet at the par-three 17th served another birdie and got Watson back to five under.

Standing on the 18th tee with a four shot lead, Watson took a gamble and paid the price.

“The 18th was always going to be a gamble,” he said. “The tee was set right at the back, so three-wood brings the water on the right into play and driver the water on the left. If you laid up, you couldn’t get it past the bunkers.

“So, I went with driver and caught the water on the left. It one of those things; you just have to look ahead. My second caught the greenside bunker and I hit a pretty decent trap shot, but then left the putt short. But this is one of those times I don’t mind a bogey finish at all.”

Williams put in a solid performance with three birdies and two bogeys, but the 52-year-old also went fishing at the 18th. He closed with an even-par 70 to take second on 288.

Quigley was in a great position to take the runner-up spot, though, but a three-putt double bogey at the 18th killed his challenge. The Ruimsig amateur signed for a 71 to finish in third on 289.

284 – Graeme Watson 70 71 70 73
288 – Steve Williams 70 71 74 73
289 – Sean Quigley 75 72 71 71
291 – Ryan Dreyer 77 70 71 73
293 – David Muller 72 79 69 73; Greg Sheard 72 73 74 74
0294 – Barry Sundelson 74 70 74 76 Johan Nel 71 75 70 78; Neil Homann 70 76 75 73
295 – Cameron Johnston 75 74 75 71

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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