After 24 top-ten finishes, George Coetzee finally secured his maiden European Tour title at the Joburg Open.
A closing six under par 66 saw the 27 year old finish on 19 under, three shots ahead of compatriot Justin Walters, England’s Tyrell Hatton and Korean Jin Jeong.
With three Open Championship places on offer, Challenge Tour graduate Hatton was the unlucky player to miss out on an invite to Royal Liverpool – his position of 276th in the Official World Golf Ranking lower than that of Jeong and Walters.
“I don’t know what I’m feeling,” said Coetzee, whose victory came at the 107th time of asking. “I’m lost for words.
“I’ve been waiting a while and I started doubting, so I’m very happy.
“I got to share this with my family and my friends. It was my mum’s birthday yesterday and I wanted to do it for her as I forgot to buy her a present!”
Coetzee becomes the sixth South African winner in the eighth staging of the event but, at the start of the day, his compatriots Thomas Aiken and Walters looked the more likely contenders to continue the home nation’s remarkable run as they began two clear.
Coetzee birdied all three par fives on the way out, holed a ten footer at the fourth to turn in 33 and knocked in from six feet at the tenth to move in front for the first time.
The World Number 74 then did well to save par from rough on the 11th and a bunker at the next, before a crucial piece of luck on the 15th proved decisive.
Having driven left towards a stream, his ball ricocheted off a tree and back onto the fairway before a 20 foot putt secured an unlikely birdie.
Three closing pars provided a nervous wait as Walters reached the final tee needing an eagle on the reachable par five to force a play-off, but he drove into the sand and eventually bogeyed - handing Coetzee the €206,050 winner’s cheque.
Johannesburg-born Walters’ search for a first European Tour title goes on after a closing 73, but the 33 year old has the consolation of a first Major Championship appearance at Hoylake in July.
“Beginning of the week if you gave me second place I would have put my feet up and taken it, but given the situation I’m a little disappointed,” said Walters.
“It’s bittersweet, though, because I’ve earned a place at The Open and that’s the major we’ve all dreamed of playing in since we were kids.”
Jeong, a winner in Perth at the end of 2013, closed with a 71 to earn a return to The Open, where he finished an impressive tied for 14th in 2010, while Hatton’s 66 secured a best European Tour finish of his fledgling career.