Rowe superb in getting first win on home soil

Lyle Rowe was superb on Saturday in closing out victory in the Sunshine Tour’s Blue Label Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City as his closing three-under-par 69 gave him a total of 33 points in the modified Stableford tournament.

He made six birdies and three bogeys in his final round for none points, and, in the end, won by four points over qualifier Dylan Mostert to take his third Sunshine Tour title and his first on home soil. Ruan Korb and Jaco Ahlers were in a share of third after finishing on 27 points, with Ockie Strydom on 26 points in fifth.

“I was runner-up twice in this event in Swaziland,” said Rowe of his second-place finishes in the predecessor to this event, the Investec Royal Swazi Open. “So I probably should have won there too! But to win on as great a golf course as this and in South Africa is special. I enjoy the format, I am quite aggressive and it shows I guess in that I get more birdies and bogeys, but a dropped shot is only minus a point while a birdie gets you two points.”

Rowe started with a bogey on the first – the par-five 10th in the routing familiar to followers of the Nedbank Golf Challenge – but he picked up a birdie on the fourth before embarking on the streak which set him up for victory. He made birdies on all four holes around the turn, picking up two points on each of eight, nine, 10 and 11. He narrowly missed out on birdies on the next few holes, before sealing the deal with a birdie on the drivable par-four 15th. Although he dropped shots on 16 and 17, his pursuers were unable to take advantage of those lapses.

“I got nice momentum and confidence around the turn,” said Rowe, “which meant I went into the back nine feeling positive and I trusted myself down the stretch.” Rowe said.

It’s been a strange season for Rowe, who got his victories in the Zambia Sugar Open in Lusaka in 2014 and the Golden Pilsner Zimbabwe Open in Harare in 2016. He had to qualify for the opening event of the Sunshine Tour season, the Kit Kat Group Pro-Am, and he wasn’t able to qualify for the Cape Town Open or the Dimension Data Pro-Am. But he got things on track with two recent top-10s in the Sunshine Tour Invitational and the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Mount Edgecombe.

“I’ve been playing well for a while now and I just knew I needed to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Rowe said. “It’s just a couple of shots every tournament and even though I didn’t make it easy for myself, I kept giving myself chances. I’ve gone back to the short putter, which gives me more feel, so I’ve been putting well and I’ve just been doing the right things mentally, controlling what I can on the course.”

His victory takes him to 11th on the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit, and gives him great momentum into the big events of the summer season.

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