It was a long wait after Lyle Rowe finished his final round at Royal Harare Golf Club on Sunday, but the wait eventually saw him crowned champion in the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open by two strokes.
His flawless final round of five-under-par 67 saw him finish ahead of Dylan Frittelli, who carded the round of the day with his seven-under 65. Bryce Easton and Louis de Jager shared third place on eight-under, with five players in a share of fifth on seven-under.
It was a sweet victory for Rowe, who won his first Sunshine Tour title in 2014 just north of Zimbabwe, when he took the Zambia Sugar Open in Lusaka. “It’s a common trend for me to win in Africa,” he said. “I hope I can keep it going in Lusaka next week.”
After that Lusaka win, Rowe managed only two top 10s until this Harare victory. And with a long break in the Sunshine Tour schedule after the Eye of Africa PGA Championship in late February, it might have been difficult for Rowe to start fast. “We’ve had a long time off, and it’s easy to get a bit complacent. But I find it good to play and get rounds under the belt.”
Rowe started the day six shots off the 54-hole pace set by Breyten Meyer. He set off in pursuit immediately with a birdie on the first hole. Two more by the fifth set on a path to the top of the leaderboard as Meyer – and others – were battling to keep in front of the pursuers.
Birdies at 14 and 17 completed Rowe’s charge. “It’s nice to get it done down the stretch,” he said. “There were a couple of shaky shots coming in but that birdie on 17 was quite big. In the past, I’ve made too many mistakes. Now, it was a question of a couple of birdies and the rest pars – that seemed to do the job.
“I’ve been playing solid golf. If you keep it in the right place, have no three-putts, no double bogeys, then it can work well. Luckily, I took my chances when I had them. I was quite solid off the tee box. I put it in the right place and then my putting’s been quite solid. I’ve moved over to a new grip which seemed to help.”
Rowe’s best year on the Sunshine Tour came in 2012, when a share of eighth in the Africa Open catapulted him to 32nd on the Order of Merit. A win in the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open last year saw Dean Burmester set off on an extraordinary season. Rowe is hoping for the same: “Confidence is huge in this game. I hope I carry this over into the rest of the year,” he said.