The winner of the first event on the Sunshine Tour’s new Rise-Up Series, Darren Fichardt, says his victory at Killarney Country Club was the best possible way to start the new season.
Fichardt emerged victorious at the Betway Championship on Friday after what proved to be an extremely difficult couple of days at the Johannesburg course.
The 45-year-old produced a scintillating final-round 64 on Friday, which saw him edge Ulrich van den Berg by a single stroke, despite the latter having two birdie opportunities on the final two holes to either win the event or force a playoff.
For Fichardt, though, the jubilation almost came more from the fact that professional golf returned to South Africa after the long break due to Covid-19.
‘It looks like I need to take five months off and then play tournaments,’ said Fichardt after his victory on Friday.
‘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.’
What was his 18th career triumph on the Sunshine Tour, Fichardt says he spent a lot of his off time working out and getting in the best physical shape possible, but admits he probably didn’t expect to perform as well in the first event back after such a long layoff.
‘The last five months I have working hard in the gym, trying to get my strength up and getting myself strong again. The last three or four weeks I have been doing a lot of core stuff and flexibility so I didn’t quite know how it was going to turn out but at the end of the day it came through, which is nice so actually got into it straight away.’
On the other hand, Fichardt was also relieved at the opportunity to spend some time with his family and having the chance to do a bit of consistent work in the gym, given how draining it can be to compete week in and week out.
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‘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.’
The Rise-Up Series will now head to Glendower Golf Club for the second event of the ‘Gauteng Swing’ where the African Bank Sunshine Tour Championship will tee off on Wednesday.