GAUTENG North’s Albert Venter shot a course record nine-under-par 63 at Port Elizabeth Golf Club to clinch a provincial breakthrough in the Eastern Province Stroke Play Championship on Sunday.
The 19-year-old Centurion Country Club player knocked in nine birdie putts to put an exclamation mark behind a flawless performance and a two-stroke victory on eight under 208.
His final-round effort also bettered the course record – set by Frenchman Romain Langasque in the third round of the South African Stroke Play Championship in February – by one stroke.
Venter opened with rounds of 74 and shot 71 to begin the final round well behind local favourite Mzuyanda Zingela, who led on five under 139 after rounds of 69 and 70.
“I was six shots off the pace and didn’t think I had any chance,” the first-year PGA teaching professional student from TuksSport Golf Academy said.
“The wind really pumped in the first round and the conditions were tough. I had five bogeys and a double bogey, which was just too sloppy. My goal for the second round was to limit my mistakes . . .
“So, for the final round, I wanted to try and finish the tournament with a blemish-free card.”
After a solid start with birdies at one and four, Venter made three birdies in a row from the seventh to turn five under. He added further gains at 10 and 11 and closed with birdies at 16 and 18.
“It was really an awesome round,” Venter said.
“I hit all 18 greens in regulation and I had nine one-putts. My ball striking was really great and every time I got the ball close to a pin, I sunk the putt. It means a lot to me that I stuck to my game plan.”
Venter claimed a top 10 finish in the KwaZulu-Natal Stroke Play Qualifier, reached the final of the KZN Match Play Championship and tied for second in the Mpumalanga Open in his last four starts.
The victory at Port Elizabeth Golf Club propelled him to 11th in the South African Golf Association’s Open Amateur rankings.
“I think it’s normal to start doubting yourself, but this has given me back my self-belief,” Venter said.
“The first thing I felt when I handed in my card was relief; this is a big monkey off my back.”
Gauteng’s Jason Viljoen carded rounds of 69, 71 and 67 to finish second.
Venter’s fellow TuksSport Golf Academy member Jason Smith (70-71-71) tied for third on 212 with Western Province pair Altin van der Merwe (71-72-69) and Elmo Barnard (72-71-69). Zingela closed with a 75 to finish in sixth on 214.