By Michael Vlismas
It was akin to the kind of move made from Lockdown Level 5 to Level 2 in one sweep as Darren Fichardt surged through the field with a final round of 64 to win the Sunshine Tour’s Betway Championship by a single stroke at Killarney Country Club on Friday.
With the lowest round of this 54-hole tournament and not a single bogey on his card, Fichardt overcame a six-shot deficit as he stormed up the leaderboard on the final day to win by one on three-under-par 207.
“It looks like I need to take five months off and then play tournaments,” said Fichardt, who wins the first tournament on the new Rise-Up Series that has ushered in the return to action of the Sunshine Tour.
“I’m very happy to win. It was so good to have those butterflies in your stomach going again. Sitting on the couch for five months was tough and I’m really happy to be back.”
Ulrich van den Berg came inches close to holing his long birdie putt at the last that would have forced a playoff. Van Den Berg took second place on two-under 208 with a closing 69 that in itself marked a welcome return to form for him.
But apart from the 65 of Jaco van Zyl to finish tied seventh, Fichardt was in a class of his own as he relied on every bit of the experience he’s gained from his five European Tour victories on his way to claiming his 18th victory on the Sunshine Tour. It’s also his second victory this year after winning the Eye of Africa PGA Championship in January.
“I worked really hard in the gym during lockdown and on getting my strength up. You know, 26 years on tour, lockdown was good in that it gave me time with my family and time to do some focused work in the gym which you can’t always do when you’re touring every week. And I feel I’ve needed this to give my career a bit more longevity.”
Jaco van Zyl leads the Betway Birdie Challenge after this first tournament on the Rise-Up Series with 13 birdies. The Betway Birdie Challenge will run for the full five tournaments on the series, with the leading birdie maker walking away with R25 000 at the end of the series, followed by R15 000 for second place and R10 000 for third.