Benoni’s Reece McKain overturned a three-shot deficit on Thursday to claim a one-stroke victory for his maiden Altron Big Easy Tour title after he carded a final-round 70 to total 11-under-par at Waterkloof Golf Club.
It was a dramatic turn of events as both Royal Cape Golf Club’s Samuel Simpson and the man who had led proceedings here for the first 36 holes, Philip Geerts, pushed hard for the win coming down the final stretch.
Conner McKenzie was also in the mix in the early stages of the round, even though he would slip down to finish fourth in Pretoria this week.
“I think for me the turning point of my round was the 8th hole,” said McKain. “I hit it in the water there, after making birdie on the 7th; now I’m looking at a double in the face on the tight, right flag – a nicely tucked flag. So, I thought ‘let me just drop it way back – 65 – I like that number, and I just hit a perfect golf shot and the ball spun back into the hole for a nice little hole-out. That was great momentum.”
McKain started his round with a bogey but swiftly recovered with a birdie in the next hole. His joy was short-lived, however, as he dropped another shot on the par-four 5th. Again, and in a show of mental strength and grit, McKain capitalised with a birdie and didn’t drop another shot until the 10th. He found joy once more when he birdied 12 and 14 before closing off with another birdie on the last.
“Last week I didn’t play as well at Dainfern,” McKain said. “The weather wasn’t great but it’s OK. I came here with a level head and just told myself to come out and play some golf. I’ve been working on a lot of patience and that proved to work this week.
“I was three shots back, if I’m not mistaken, and the wind was blowing everywhere.
“Even the guys that were teeing off the 10th tee were still in contention, in a way, so I just tried to keep the ball in play and I putted nicely and that saved me today.
“I also made a great putt on 18. I didn’t really read it because I have played here so much and I knew it was going a little bit to the left. I kept my head down and tried to breathe nicely and it went in with a bit of pace. Luckily the pin was in.
“I love the greens here. It’s such a true roll when you putt – end over end. You have to read the right line. This is a forgiving golf course in a way that you can just step up and hit a driver. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. so, I’m happy that I was hitting my driver well this week.”
McKain turned pro last year in April and earned his Altron Big Easy Tour playing privileges after failing to secure a Sunshine Tour card at Qualifying School where he fell short of the top 25.
In his rookie season on this Sunshine Tour development circuit, things were never going to be easy for McKain. The quality of golf is of such high quality that it is not a rare phenomenon to compete against multiple Sunshine Tour winners.
McKain knows what a win like this means in his young career.
“Coming into this week’s tournament after last week’s missed cut, I think I was 70th on the Order of Merit,” he said. “So, this win does major things for me. I think it puts me inside the top 30 as well and that’s the main goal; try and get to the final stage of Q-School, or even a Sunshine Tour card now. So, I’m glad I was able to play well and get it done.”
McKain has in fact now moved up to 20th on the Order of Merit and within the top 50 players eligible to play The Play-Offs at Centurion Country Club in a couple weeks’ time.
The 10th tournament of the Altron Big Easy Tour will be played at Benoni Country Club where McKain is a familiar figure and he will hope to make it back-to-back wins at his home course.
Photo: Sunshine Tour