Madibaz’s JP van der Watt stayed alive in a three-way sudden death playoff to win the University Sports South Africa strokeplay title ahead of two teammates in Makhanda recently.
Van der Watt, Lumkile Matshiyo and Tiaan Tibshraeny signed for a one-under 143 after two rounds to qualify for the tension-filled grand finale at Belmont Golf Club.
They were two shots clear of the chasing pack and had to return to the testing par-five 18th to decide the 2023 champion.
All three players decided to lay up on the tricky hole, which features a steep slope up to the green.
Matshiyo and Tibshraeny both returned par while Van der Watt, who had hit his approach to about 10 feet, nailed his birdie putt.
An opening 73 left him seven shots behind first-round leader Jaco Anderson (CUT) but the Mandela Bay prodigy hit back to card a solid two-under 70 on the second day.
Anderson failed to capitalise on his good start, slumping to a 79 at the second time of asking. Meanwhile, Matshiyo (75 and 68) and Tibshraeny (70 and 73) ensured that the Madibaz would lock out the podium.
Van der Watt felt it was a “pretty cool” effort in his maiden appearance at an USSA event.
“It’s really nice to cap off the year with a win and great to have some Madibaz players at the top of the leaderboard,” the 22-year-old BCom student said.
“It was some reward for the hard work we have put into our golf this year.”
The player from Gqeberha said it simply had been a case of staying patient on a “pretty short and tight course”.
“On Belmont you really have to concentrate on keeping it neat and tidy, and not being too aggressive. It’s important to adapt to the demands of the course and not get ahead of yourself.”
An eagle on the 18th to conclude his opening round turned out to be a defining moment for the eventual champion.
“I’d had quite a rough day and was still trying to understand what the best strategy was. To make eagle on that hole gave me a lot of momentum going into the next round.”
He and Tibshraeny had similar putts for birdie in the playoff, with the latter failing to find the cup.
“I was quite fortunate in one sense because in regulation play one of the players in my group had the same putt I had in the playoff. So I knew the line and just had to step up and hit it with confidence.”
With the three best scores of the four players in each round counting towards the overall score, Madibaz also secured the team title.
Together with Wian van Aswegen, they played a total of 429 shots to finish 23 clear of BSI Golf Academy from Johannesburg.
Madibaz were knocked out in the semifinals of the matchplay by UP-Tuks but kept their heads to beat UCT in the bronze-medal game.
It was a result that disappointed Madibaz Golf Club manager Karl du Preez, but he praised the team for their efforts on days one and two.
“It was a great week for us in the strokeplay. To have three players under par on a challenging course just showed the quality of our golfers.
“We were a bit unhappy at the matchplay outcome but glad in the end to pick up the bronze.”