Conradie birdies the last to take 3-shot Wingate Park win

Estiaan Conradie birdied the last hole at his home club, Wingate Park Country Club, on Friday to ease to a three-stroke maiden Sunshine Tour victory in the SunBet Challenge hosted by Time Square Casino.

It was anything but easy for Conradie after he picked up an eagle on the second, which might have lulled him into a false sense of security. He followed that with the first of five dropped shots as Malcolm Mitchell took aim at the top spot and fought every inch of the way for what would have been his maiden victory too.

“That eagle really settled my nerves,” said Conradie. “It was a 10-footer from just off the green, and then, unfortunately, I tried to throw away the tournament for the rest of the front nine. I tossed my gameplan out the window, and I ended up just trying to hang in with Malcolm.”

After that bogey on three, Conradie seemed to be digging a deeper hole for himself as he bogeyed six, eight and 10. He righted what might have been a sinking ship, however, with his first birdie of the day on the 12th, at the same time as Mitchell made his third bogey. That brought the pair back to level-pegging with six to play.

“That was the turning point for sure,” said Conradie. “I was back to doing what I told myself I should be doing, and things started to go my way.”

They both birdied the par-three 14th and the par-five 15th, before Conradie edged clear with his third successive birdie on the par-three 16th. There was no respite for him, however, as he bogeyed 17 – but, fortunately for him, so did Mitchell.

So he was one up with the par-five 18th to play, and he made his move. His birdie there, and Mitchell’s bogey, opened up the gap to one which showed more breathing room than Conradie felt at any time during that roller-coaster final round.

“Malcolm hit his tee shot a bit off line into a fairway bunker, and had to lay up out of it,” said Conradie. “I was in the middle of the fairway with a four-iron in my hand. I thought about laying up, but I stuck with the thought and hit it on to the green, and made my two-putt birdie. Malcom was on for three, and was a bit aggressive with his birdie putt.”

Now there are two Conradies who have won on the Sunshine Tour as he joins brother Ruan, who is campaigning in Europe on the Challenge Tour, in the winner’s circle. “Unfortunately, I’m going to have to use WhatsApp to let him know he’s not the only one anymore,” said Conradie, “but a long voice note will probably be as satisfying as face to face!”

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