Albert Venter sunk a 16-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole at Royal Harare Golf Club to win the FBC Zimbabwe Open on Sunday.
An excellent day with the putter saw Venter to a superb final-round 66. The 26-year-old then had to hold off Stefan Wears-Taylor, who also shot 66 in the final round, and Louis Albertse (67) in the playoff after the trio all finished the tournament on 10-under-par.
They all parred the 18th in the first playoff hole, but on their next attempt, Venter spun a sand-wedge from the fairway back to 16 feet from the pin and then nailed the birdie putt, with Albertse and Wears-Taylor unable to make their shorter putts.
Venter’s success with the putter was unexpected because the Silver Lakes golfer struggled with the short stick in the third round.
“I knew I needed to just keep grinding today, follow my processes, and my goal was to just get in contention on the back nine,” said Venter, who began the final round five shots off the lead.
“I was playing with the American, Dan Erickson, and he was off to a flyer – six-under after seven holes. So he was the guy to catch and I just tried to stay within touching distance of him. Then I caught fire on the back nine and I just kept following my processes, just keeping the ball in play, hit the greens and make the putts.
“Yesterday was a really bad putting day – 31 putts – so last night I spent an hour or two on the green and I found something. The putter paid off today with the prize.”
Venter finished runner-up (his best finish on tour) in last September’s Sunshine Tour Invitational at Centurion Country Club, but two missed cuts in October probably cost him a top-50 finish in the final 2021-22 Order of Merit.
His victory on Sunday means none of that matters now and he said his big breakthrough felt surreal.
“At the moment, it’s still kind of surreal,” Venter said. “To get to this professional level is hard enough, but then to win is a whole another level. It’s about belief and I can only thank my supporters, my coaching staff and family, who felt I was good enough. I would not be in this position without them.”
Erickson was still in the lead when he birdied the par-three 15th, which Venter bogeyed, but the American was knocked out of contention by a bogey-bogey finish.
Wears-Taylor birdied 16 and 17 to claim the outright lead, but then bogeyed the last to force him into a playoff, with Albertse staying alive as he birdied 18.
Venter’s round was built around three successive birdies from the 7th hole, and he then burnt up the back nine with a run of four straight birdies from the 11th hole. Despite dropping a shot at 15, he stuck around to the bitter end.
Overnight leader Luca Filippi finished in seventh position after shooting a 75, while Louis de Jager and Jaco Ahlers joined Erickson in fourth place, two shots behind, after they both made 70s on Sunday.