Zimbabwe's Marc Cayeux made it a red letter day for southern Africa when he held his nerve and his lead to win the co-sanctioned Stanbic Zambia Open in Lusaka.
Just a couple of hours after Ernie Els’s victory in the Dubai Desert Classic, Cayeux carded a final round 70 for 270, 22 under par, finishing two strokes ahead of South Africans Andre Cruse and Richard Sterne.
It was Cayeux’s second Zambia title. His first came four years ago and he fully deserved this latest triumph after starting the day three shots clear and conceding just two bogeys in 72 holes.
“It’s really nice to win here again,” he said. “In 1998, it meant a lot as it was my maiden professional victory. Four years later this is a much bigger tournament and this is the first step towards my European Tour card.
The 24 year old, who now lives in Johannesburg, felt he was a nervous wreck at the start, but after a solid tee shot he opened with birdies at the first two holes.
That put him at ease and after reaching the turn in 33 he added further birdies at the 10th and 14th, both par fives, to get to 23 under. He was particularly pleased with his second shot at the 14th where he hit a four iron to 15 feet.
His only blemish came at the 17th when he missed from 15 feet for par after a poor tee shot. It was only his second bogey of the week but he still had a cushion of two strokes and a solid par at the last guaranteed his victory.
Cayeux, who began the day three clear, added: “Today was a bit more difficult. Conditions were great but I had no idea what was happening ahead of me. I was a bit taken aback on the 12th when I realised Andre and Richard were on 19 under and I only had a three-stroke lead.”
He had eagled the long 13th on the previous two days but held back this time when considering the situation. “I could have tried for another eagle but there was no need to,” he said. “I was comfortable and after the birdie at the 14th I felt I had the tournament won.
“After the bogey at the 17th, I decided to play it safe at the 18th. At the very least, I needed a par to win and I laid up instead of going for the green. But I tell you, I was so relieved when I heard no big cheers from the crowd at the 18th green. It meant no one made eagle ahead of me. It was the first time I could relax.”
Cruse, who was the hero of round one when he holed-in-one to win a car for the second successive year, came up fast on the rails with a closing 66 with eight birdies, while Sterne matched his 272 with 67.
Simon Hurd had seven birdies in a bogey-free 66 to finish joint fourth on 274 with fellow Englishman Simon Wakefield, who ran in five birdies in a 68, and Kariem Baraka from Germany, who started in second place but slipped back with 71.
In joint seventh were two more English players, Benn Barham and Ben Mason, after rounds of 68 and 71 respectively, and two more South Africans, Rudi Whitfield with 67, and Titch Moore after a 71.
Another Springbok, Jaco van Zyl returned the best round of the final day, a 65, with eight birdies, four in a row from the 10th.