Jack Hume put on one of the classiest performances of the week with a flawless eight under 64 to close out a thrilling one stroke victory in the South African Stroke Play Championship at Blue Valley Golf and Country Club on Friday. The Irishman produced a hat-trick of birdies over the closing holes in the final round to deny 2014 champion Jason Smith a repeat victory and edge out countryman Stuart Grehan and finished the week on a winning score of 19-under-269.
Smith and Grehan shared second on 18 under with respective rounds of 71 and 70.
Hume became the second Irish champion to etch his name on the prestigious trophy since Ciaran McMonagle triumphed at East London Golf Club in 2000. He was also the first player to break the 270 mark since Richard Sterne won with a 22 under 266 total at Oppenheimer Park in 2001. Hume started the last day six shots behind Smith and joint leader Ewen Ferguson from Scotland and was absolutely thrilled with the day’s outcome after a shaky start.
Hume says: ‘I knew I would have to shoot a low one to have any chance, but I struggled off the tee and battled to save par at the first few holes. I have to credit my caddie – Joseph Mohulatsi – for keeping me calm. He told me to stay patient, the putts would drop. I really wanted to take advantage of the par fives, so it was a great relief when the first birdie putt dropped at the third.
I missed a close call at five, but made the birdie at six. The birdies at eight and nine really got my momentum going and I got it to 16 under with a birdie 13. I knew I had a chance, but it was very tight.’ Ferguson bowed out of tussle when he dropped five shots around the turn, but Smith and Grehan were fighting for pole position in the final group. Smith led on 18 under and Grehan lurked a further shot back after both birdied 13.
Hume says: ‘Both my birdie putts at 14 and 15 shaved the hole and the pressure was on. I knew they would both go for the green at 17 and 18 is a par five, so I gunned my drive down the 16th fairway. I had 128 meters to the pin and I hit it four feet and made the putt. My tee shot at 17 flew well past the flag, but I fancied the birdie putt. It was 35 feet and downhill. The downhill putts hold the line really well on these greens and I hit this one perfectly.’ The South African had dropped shots at 15 and 16, but Grehan birdied 16 to tie Hume at 18 under. After a solid tee shot and approach, Hume chipped to three feet, boxed the birdie putt and settled in to see if Smith or Grehan would force a play-off.
Smith rallied with a birdie at 17 to get back to 17 under, but Grehan missed his chance to tie Hume’s 19-under target. Smith’s chip for eagle at 18 finished agonisingly close to the hole, while Grehan’s chip sped past the flag. The Irishman’s birdie effort fell short, but Smith drained his four-footer for birdie to grab a share of second.
Hume could finally exhale and enjoy the moment. The world number 39-ranked amateur says: ‘I had no idea that this was such a prestigious achievement until I saw some of the names on the trophy. It’s an amazing feeling to hold this trophy and realise that my name will be there next to guys like Branden Grace, Richard Sterne and Trevor Immelman. This is an incredible victory for me and for Ireland.’
269 Jack Hume IRL 67 70 68 64
270 Stuart Grehan IRL 70 62 68 70; Jason Smith 64 68 67 71
273 James Du Preez 71 68 69 65
274 Tim Widing SWE 70 63 69 72; Jovan Rebula 69 65 72 68; Paul Boshoff 68 72 64 70; Ewen Ferguson SCO 67 64 68 75; Aubrey Beckley 65 66 72 71
275 Connor Syme SCO 68 68 72 67; Bob MacIntyre SCO 67 70 70 68; Brandon Cloete 66 66 72 71; Scott Gibson SCO 65 75 67 68
Photo credit: Ernest Blignault