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28 Jan 2008 11:39
James Kamte raised his hands in praise after scoring a breakthrough victory with an explosive five-birdie back nine to overhaul his rivals and win the R1,8-million Dimension Data Pro-Am at the Gary Player Country Club on Sunday.
In doing so, Kamte also became the first black South African to win on the tough summer swing of the Sunshine Tour.
The 25-year-old from Queenstown, whose first victory came on at the Seekers Travel Pro-Am on the Winter Swing last year, shot a final round 70 for a winning total of 11-under-par 211, three shots clear of local favourite James Kingston.
The 2007 South African Airways champion carded a 74 to finish alone in second on eight-under, one shot ahead of Fish Hoek’s Peter Karmis, who finished alone in third at seven-under with a final round 71.
Six-time Sunshine Tour winner Thomas Aiken, who held a share of the lead through the 16th, birdied the last after signing for an eight at the 17th to claim a share of fourth with Norway’s Peter Kaensche and 2006 winner Alan McLean at six-under.
The deeply religious Kamte, who was two behind at the turn, said the turning point came during the cart trip from the ninth green to the 10th tee.
“Coming up the ninth, I hit a great five-iron in but messed up the hole. I looked at the leaderboard and saw I was only two behind,” said Kamte, who stayed focused by reciting scriptures to himself on the course.
“I prayed all the way to the 10th [course first hole] and when I got out of the cart, I turned to my caddie, Stanley [Moeng], and said to him: “We are going to win this.
“[I] just heard God talking to me so clearly.
From there, He did all the work.
Aiken, playing a couple of matches ahead, was the outsider who made the biggest run at it. Aiken turned in 33 and added birdies at 11 and fourteen. He was heading for a 67 or lower, but what was looking like a potential play-off went to ashes with the eight at 17.
By the time Aiken closed with a birdie for a 70, Kamte had effectively ring-fenced the R285Â 300 winner’s cheque with a birdie three at the 14th. One shot ahead of Kingston, he set up another 4-footer at the 15th and holed that to widen the gap to two.
“I thought to myself, ‘Wow, now I’m two ahead, now they have to catch me’.”
Kamte hit the perfect tee shot to split the fairway at the 17th and pitched his eight-iron approach four feet from the pin to set up birdie number six.
For the first time in a week, the clouds had truly lifted and let the faded denim sky through as the sun baked down on the course. For some it meant a ray of hope; for Kamte the sun shone brightly on his champion’s walk to the 18th green.
“I told Stanley we can play the last in par; with three shots, everyone had to catch me. I wasn’t going to do something stupid.”
Colourfully decked out in orange trousers, bright red shirt and bright red cap, Kamte entertained with some colourful golf but couldn’t quite get the last putt in the hole for a final birdie to end the day in a blaze of glory.
But even as his first attempt died inched before the hole, that signature smile exploded on his face he tapped in for victory.
There have been other champions of colour. Swazi Joe Dlamini won a Swazi Open when it was still part of the summer swing, and Vijay Singh the South African Open. But they weren’t South Africans.
And there have been several black South Africans winning on the winter swing of the Sunshine Tour, including John Mashego (1991), Lindani Ndwandwe (2001) and Kamte at Dainfern in September 2007.
We should also remember Papwa Swegolum, who annexed a couple of Natal Opens in the first half of the 1960s.
All in all, Kamte’s victory on Sunday was both unique and rather special and on Monday, the newly crowned Dimension Data Pro-Am winner jets off to the Middle East for the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic.
Proudly South African, Kamte is delighted that his preparation at Sun City paid such high dividends because the stakes will be much higher with aboutâ,¬2-million on offer.
“I hope I can take this form with me; it’s what I worked on this week and I really want to do well in Dubai. I have a working game plan now and if I can apply it there, it will pay off. I will just do the work and let God do the driving.”
Phalaborwa’s Deane Pappas, on a hiatus from the United States, and his amateur partner Craig Harris won the R200Â 000 Betterball Medal competition from Kamte and his partner, Sam Hackner, on a winning score of 28-under-par 260.—Sapa
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