By Matthews Mfubu (Fullpage Media and Communications)
Travis Ladner claimed a dramatic come-from-behind victory on the Altron Big Easy Tour after he shot a final-round 68 to total 12-under-par 204 and defeat close friend, Stals Swart, by two shots at Akasia Golf Club on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old Ladner had posted similar scores in the first and second rounds of this 54-hole event and was just a shot behind overnight leader, Marthin Scheepers, going into the final round.
“It was a crazy finish out there,” said Ladner after he birdied the last for a two-stroke victory. “It hasn’t really sunk in. I’m obviously gutted for Stals, one of my best mates. It sucks to see him finish like that but I’m chuffed with how I played this week and I’m happy to finally get it done.”
He started the final round with a birdie on the first hole but immediately gave that shot away on the second. He steadied himself and made back-to-back pars before another birdie – this time on the par-five fifth. Ladner made further gains on the seventh and eighth, birdieing both those holes. But that joy was short-lived, too, as yet another bogey visited his card.
After the turn, Ladner, who plays out of Eagle Canyon Golf Estate, gave nothing away; making seven pars and a pair of birdies to seal his first title on any Sunshine Tour-sanctioned event.
“I played in the Sunshine Tour’s Origins of Golf event at Pezula last week and I missed the cut there.” he said, “So, I didn’t have any expectations this week. I met a good caddie; he offered to carry my bag and we got along and it was just easy with him on the bag. I mean, we didn’t hit into the bush once. We kept it in play the whole day. It was a good round.”
Soft-spoken and always focused, Ladner, who has had a couple of good rounds this season already, refuses to get carried away, even in the aftermath of a momentous victory.
“It’s obviously nice to win but I’m still going to stay patient and stay positive,” said Ladner. “It’s nice to win now before we go to the co-sanctioned tournaments and their pre-qualifiers. Hopefully, this gives me a little bit of confidence. I know that if you stick to your processes, everything will fall into place and what’s meant to be, will be.”
Disappointing as Swart’s finish was – a double-bogey seven on the par-five 18th – the Sunshine Tour rookie should be proud of his effort this week. Minus that double on the last and the drop he made of the first hole, Swart’s final round here was just as solid.
Swart might not have won this week, but he will, certainly, be celebrating Ladner’s victory too.