Rupert Kaminski stayed calm and centred through a gruelling and testing final day of the SA PGA Championship at the St Francis Links on Saturday, holding off Matthew Spacey, who stayed in contact with him the whole day, to claim victory by one shot and make his first Sunshine Tour title a big one.
With extreme winds expected on Sunday, Saturday was a race against time to get the tournament finished with both the third and fourth rounds being played, with three-balls going off at the same time in shotgun starts.
Kaminski and Spacey both fired terrific six-under-par 66s in the third round in the morning to close to within one stroke of leader Peter Karmis (71) on nine under par.
In the afternoon, it became a two-horse race as Kaminski, who teed off on the 1st hole, and Spacey, who set off on the 18th, separated themselves from the field. Karmis could only manage a 77 in the final round, finishing on four under and in a tie for third with Ryan van Velzen (72) and Adam Breen (73).
Spacey had a troubled start with two bogeys in his first four holes, while Kaminski played sublime golf on the front nine, with three birdies in the first six holes.
Spacey fought back though with birdies on the par-four 12th and par-three 14th holes, while Kaminski made a couple of bogeys coming home.
Kaminski parred the last though for a level-par 72, while Spacey fell agonisingly short with bogeys on the par-four 15th and on the par-three 17th, his closing hole.
“I’m still extremely overwhelmed and I don’t think it’s ever going to really sink in. I’m blown away with the way I played and it’s such a privilege for me to lift this prestigious trophy,” Kaminski said some time after his triumph.
“Par was definitely a good score today. I thought two under for the whole day [both rounds] would be good enough, but I was six under for the third and fourth rounds, which is really tremendous.
“I was just very calm through the day and I had a lot of trust in everything I was doing. I hit the ball well, I putted well and I just had a lot of faith and belief today. I continued to focus on what was in front of me.
“In the past couple of years, I’ve been in position to win a few times, but I let it get the best of me, I let the occasion get to me. But I was impressed by how in control I felt today.”
Like an astronaut being rocketed off to Mars, Kaminski now finds himself in a new world of golf; in celebrated company as the winner of South Africa’s second-oldest professional golf tournament. He joins the likes of Gary Player, Dale Hayes, John Bland, Tony Johnstone, Ernie Els, David Frost, Mark McNulty and Louis Oosthuizen in putting their names on the impressive trophy.
“It’s incredible, apart from moving into fifth on the Order of Merit, I’m also into all the big events for the rest of the season, the co-sanctioned tournaments at the end of the year,” Kaminski said.
“Hopefully this will be the start of really big things and it’s a nice step in that direction. And I love coming to the St Francis Links, there’s something about this place, I really enjoy the course and the people.”
The R2-million event this year celebrated the significant support of the Eastern Cape Tourism and Parks Agency and African Bank.