Dawie van der Walt admitted to feeling overwhelmed as he held his nerve down the closing stretch to win a second European Tour title at The Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa.
The 30 year old South African shot a closing 66 at Mount Edgecombe to run out a two shot winner over Matthew Baldwin and Jorge Campillo the day before Mandela’s funeral, the former President having passed away last week at the age of 95.
“It’s obviously really special, making you a part of history,” said van der Walt.
“Winning The Nelson Mandela at this time, when it’s sad for everyone, everyone is mourning and tomorrow’s the big day, it means a lot and it’s something I can keep close to my heart for ever.”
Van der Walt won his first European Tour event, also on home soil, at March’s Tshwane Open, but had made only one cut since after suffering injury problems and a loss of form.
However, once he claimed the outright lead with an eagle from 30 feet at the 12th, the World Number 337 never looked like relinquishing the €158,500 winner’s cheque.
“I haven’t been in that good form, I’ve been struggling with an injury, so this is almost overwhelming,” added van der Walt, whose victory also saw him claim the co-sanctioning Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit for 2013.
“To win the last event of the year is going to make Christmas a lot more fun.”
Van der Walt began the day by picking up a birdie on the final hole of his second round in an event shortened to 54 holes after heavy rain caused lengthy delays on the first three days.
That left him tied second going into the final round, three shots adrift of England’s Daniel Brooks.
Van der Walt bogeyed the second after a swift turnaround, but with Brooks dropping six shots in his first seven holes the tournament blew wide open.
Three birdies in four holes from the third saw van der Walt join Baldwin at the top of the leaderboard, but a duffed chip at the eighth led to a bogey and when another shot was dropped at the 11th van der Walt’s challenge looked to have stalled.
But his three at the 12th saw him leapfrog Baldwin, and further birdies at the 13th and 15th ensured he was never in danger of being caught.
Baldwin and Campillo – who shot a stunning 59 on Friday – both finished with rounds of 68, earning the former a best-ever European Tour finish, with France’s Romain Wattel a shot further back in fourth and left to rue a triple-bogey eight on the par five eighth yesterday.
Van der Walt added: “Once I got that birdie on 15, I was pretty comfortable that the tournament was mine to lose. I wasn’t sure what the guys behind me were doing, but I knew that they would have to go for birdies if they were to force a play-off.
“So I was pretty relaxed coming home – it helped that I had been in that position before.”