JC Ritchie carded a five under par final round of 67 to successfully defend his Limpopo Championship title and win the opening tournament on the 2020 Road to Mallorca.
The South African held off a determined charge from his compatriot Wilco Nienaber at Euphoria Golf Club to seal his second consecutive victory at the tournament, which was co-sanctioned with the European Challenge Tour for the first time this season.
Ritchie started the day two shots behind overnight leader Jacques Kruyswijk but soon took control with three front nine birdies to reach the turn with a one shot advantage and made no mistake, picking up two further gains over the closing stretch to finish two shots clear of Nienaber on 19 under par.
The 25-year-old was bogey-free throughout the weekend and admitted he needed to play some of the best golf of his career to top the 204-player co-sanctioned field.
“It feels really awesome to win this week,” he said. “After winning last year, to come back and win it again just feels unbelievable and I don’t think it has started to sink in yet.
“To have the Challenge Tour players coming to play the event this year definitely made defending the title harder and I found myself getting rather nervous on my back nine, but I was able to keep it together well.
“I feel like I played the best golf I possibly could have played this weekend and I don’t really feel like I could have played any better out there today. To play bogey-free over the weekend is crazy good golf especially with the conditions over the last few days, which were tough.
“I’m planning to head over to Europe to play some events on the Challenge Tour this year. First though, I think there is quite a party waiting for me at home.”
Nienaber came agonisingly close to securing his first professional title but was ultimately forced to settle for second place despite a sublime five under par final round of 67. The 19-year-old finished three shots clear of overnight leader Kruyswijk and fellow South African Hennie du Plessis, with Louis de Jager ensuring South African players rounded out the top five places.
Ritchie takes an early lead on the Road to Mallorca Rankings as he looks to secure his European Tour card for the first time this season, with the Challenge Tour now travelling to Cape Town for the RAM Cape Town Open, which gets under way from February 6-9, 2020.