June 22, 2024

Schietekat back in winner’s circle

Neil Schietekat won the FBC Zimbabwe Open by four strokes at Royal Harare Golf Club on Sunday, his successful foray to South Africa’s northern neighbour bringing him his first Sunshine Tour title since 2018 and an ideal start to his season before he heads off even further north to play in Asia. The experienced Schietekat had started the final round with a seven-stroke lead following his brilliant 66 on the third day, and although he did not pull any further away from the chasing pack, his final-round 75 was still good enough for him to win comfortably on 11-under-par. Most importantly, he played the front nine under-par, birdies on the second, third and fifth holes offsetting dropped shots on the first two par fours – the first and the fourth holes. Schietekat reached the turn with an eight-shot lead, which he needed because the tough back nine caused him problems.

“I’m really happy that I managed to pull through because today was a much tougher day for me. I haven’t won before with such a big lead, so I didn’t really know how to go about things. I wasn’t trying to play safe, but there were some shots I did not commit to and some shots I did really go for. “I had some unlucky breaks out of the rough, but that’s been the same for everybody this week. But I made a couple of really good saves and par-putts. “I was bleeding on the back nine, starting on 10 where I hit a good shot off the tee but it just rolled into the water and I made double-bogey. But I made some clutch par saves as well, especially on 14 where I sank a big putt. That settled everything and I knew that only I could lose it then. It feels really good that I managed to hang in there,” Schietekat said. Having conquered the testing, prestigious parkland layout at Royal Harare, Schietekat knows his game is in good shape before he heads off in a few weeks for his second season on the Asian Tour.

The 39-year-old Schietekat, who was educated and played his early golf in KwaZulu-Natal, praised the course that gave him his fifth Sunshine Tour title. “There are a couple of holes you can go for, the reward is big, but if you don’t pull it off then you are in big trouble. I missed a few fairways and greens today and if you miss the greens, then it becomes really tough to get up and down because the greens are so quick. They’re probably the best greens we play on all year,” Schietekat said. Jacques P. de Villiers fired a four-under 68 on Sunday to lift himself to second place, his highest finish on the Sunshine Tour, alongside Peter Karmis and Jaco Ahlers, who both shot 70s, on seven-under for the tournament. Ryan van Velzen also shot a 68 to claim fifth place on six-under-par, while Kieran Vincent was the leading Zimbabwean, on three-under-par with Danie van Niekerk.

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