Emotional Ritchie reigns in Cape Town

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JC Ritchie overcame countryman Jacques Blaauw in a play-off to win his second European Challenge Tour title at the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open.

The South African went into the final day at Royal Cape Golf Club three shots off the lead but posted a closing six under par round of 66, including a birdie on the final hole, to reach 14 under par and earn a play-off against Blaauw, who had led from day one and posted a three under par 69 on the final day.

Ritchie only needed one extra hole to secure victory, as a birdie on the first trip back to the 18th hole could not be matched by Blaauw, meaning the 2020 Limpopo Champion was a Challenge Tour winner once again after a difficult year.

“Something is back, something is definitely back,” he said. “My game disappeared. That’s where the tears came from. It’s been a lot of hell, crying, a lot of bad times in the last year that I’ve gone through to be able to get myself into this position and to win again.

“It feels amazing. I keep proving to myself that I’m good enough to play on the bigger tours. Like I’ve said before, I think I still have a lot to learn out of our borders, in Europe and on the Challenge Tour.”

The 27-year-old experienced a slow start to day four but holed out from the bunker on the third hole to kickstart his round and begin the title charge.

“It was a strange final day, it didn’t really feel like I was doing much,” he said. “I started off quite scrambly. I didn’t feel like I was going to be able to put up a charge after the slow start. Then on the third hole, I holed probably one of the most difficult bunker shots I’ve holed out from, ever. That started some momentum and getting a birdie there, on the toughest hole on the course, gave me a bit of confidence.

“When I stood on the 16th tee, I thought I was tied for the lead and I knew I had to get one more to be really safe, to guarantee the play-off. Bogeying 17 wasn’t fun and it took a lot of heart to birdie this hole because I’ve played 18 terribly this week and I hit two of probably the best wedge shots and putts I’ve hit all week.”

Blaauw posted just a single double bogey over the weekend in what was an otherwise blemish-free final two rounds to finish in second place. Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson, South African Luke Jerling and Sweden’s Mikael Lindberg shared third place on 13 under par, while Spain’s Santiago Tarrio finished sixth on 12 under.

Swiss duo Raphaël de Sousa and Benjamin Rusch, England’s Daniel Gavins, German Freddy Schott and South Africa’s Neil Schietekat completed the top ten, all sharing seventh place on 11 under par.

The round of the day and the week went to Finland’s Roope Kakko, who posted a scintillating nine under par round of 63 to leap 40 places on the leaderboard into a share of 25th spot.

Ritchie’s victory sees him move to the top of the Road to Mallorca Rankings on 29,130 points, with Blaauw occupying second spot and fellow South Africans Oliver Bekker and Hennie du Plessis in third and fourth position, respectively. Sweden’s Lindberg completes the top five on the Rankings having moved 35 spots from 40th place.

The Road to Mallorca will now travel to Fancourt Golf Estate for the Dimension Data Pro-Am from May 6-9, the third and final event of the South African Swing, co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour.

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