Anthony Wall from Sunningdale became the first winner of the new millennium on the European Tour when he captured the rain-shortened Alfred Dunhill Championship at Houghton GC, Johannesburg.
The 24 year old relieved his sponsors, Alfred Dunhill of 125,927 euro (£79,100) of their own money as he fired a closing four under par 68 for a 54-hole total of 204, 12 under par, to win by two strokes from Scotland’s Gary Orr and Welshman Phillip Price.
Orr, playing in the final group with Wall and 36-hole leader, Trevor Dodds of Namibia, shot a 70 for a total of 206, matching the effort of Price, who closed with a 67.
However, the day belonged to the Wall family. Watching from the galleries at Houghton – mercifully free of the rain which had forced the reduction from 72 to 54 holes – was his father and coach, Tom, a retired London taxi driver.
“I’m glad I asked my dad to come out there and support me” said Wall. “I always play well when he is around. He has coached me since day one and it’s great that he is here. Not only is he my dad, he is also one of my closest friend and I feel more comfortable with a friendly face around.”
Wall, who started the final round two shots behind Dodds and level with Orr, produced an outstanding back nine of 31, containing five birdies, to draw level with Dodds (74) and then finally pass him with a birdie two to a bogey four at the 15th.
Orr, the 1993 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, finished runner-up for the third time in his career. However he made a bold bid for that first victory by reaching the 18th with a drive and three wood. Had he made the resulting 15 foot eagle putt, Wall would have been forced to hole from four feet for the title.
In the event, Orr’s putt just slid past the cup and Wall, left with the luxury of two putts to win, required only one and ended up locked in an embrace with his proud and tearful father.
He commented: “This is what I have dreamed off since I was four when my dad put a club in my hands. My dream was always to get on the Tour and then to win tournaments. Both have come true.”
The new champion also has a close tie with one of Britain’s greatest ever golfers, Nick Faldo. It was at the Alfred Dunhill Championship a year ago that Faldo suggested to Wall that he might like to try the Adams clubs which the six-time major winner endorses.
Not only that, it was Faldo who inspired young Anthony to become a successful professional. He added: “I used to practise alongside Nick when I was a youngster at Sunningdale. Just seeing him there was as big an inspiration as you are going to find. That definitely drove me on to succeed.”
Wall paid a handsome tribute to Orr by saying: “I feel sorry for him. He is such a good player. I could not have had a better player to play with and I hope he wins soon.”
Overall, it was a strong performance by Orr, who said: “I gave myself a chance with that eagle attempt at the last, but Anthony played well and deserves credit for that. If I keep playing like this I’ll win my share.”
Price had earlier birdied three of the last four holes to set the clubhouse target on 10 under par -–and admitted he was still a little rusty after a winter break in which he married Sandra then learned more recently that he is to become a father for the first time in August.
Retief Goosen, fifth on last year’s Volvo Order of Merit, finished fourth after progressing each day with rounds of 72, 69 and 66. However, as he admitted, he “ran out of holes” when the tournament was curtailed to three rounds.
Unseasonally wet weather in Johannesburg had meant a five and a half hour delay on the first morning, and further persistent rain caused the European and Southern African Tours to take the decision to play a 54-hole tournament.
After the completion of the first round, three players shared the lead on 68 – and all three came from England. Brian Davis carded his 68 on Thursday after the storm delay, while Paul Broadhurst and Peter Baker joined the Londoner on that mark when they resumed on Friday morning.
Meanwhile Dodds, who won the Greater Greensboro Open on the US Tour in 1998, climbed into contention with a second round 65, the lowest of the week, to take a two stroke lead over Wall and Orr at the end of 36 holes.
Dodds eventually finished tied for fifth as Wall played the round of his young life to claim the top prize and a two year exemption on the European Tour.