Sunshine Tour

Emotional Stone claims SA Open title

Brandon Stone (Gallo Images)
Brandon Stone (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - South Africa's Brandon Stone claimed an emotional first European tour title on home soil in the SA Open on Sunday.

Stone crumpled into tears after holing out on the 18th green following a tense conclusion to the Tour's second oldest event.

The 22-year-old had established a two-shot third-round lead, then moved five shots clear before going two behind in the space of seven holes, eventually finishing at 14-under to beat Christiaan Bezuidenhout by two shots.

England's Daniel Brooks, who had briefly taken the lead, finished a shot further back in third after a bogey at the last.

Regarded as a major prospect in South Africa, Stone became the youngest winner of the event since 1997.

Weather and storms had led to delays on the first three days at the City of Ekurhuleni course with Brooks and Stone going out early Sunday to finish their third rounds with a share of the lead, Stone eventually enjoying a two-shot 54-hole lead.

As fortunes changed like the weather Brooks got back into a share of the lead on the eighth when he narrowly missed an eagle putt and tapped in to get to 12 under and the lead was his own moments later as Stone missed a slippery downhill putt on the tenth to make it five bogeys in six holes.

Bezuidenhout moved into a share of second as he made a birdie on the same hole after a brilliant approach.

Stone and Bezuidenhout then both dropped shots on the 11th to briefly hand Brooks a two-shot cushion but a bogey from the leader on the tenth kept things tight at the top.

Stone was really battling and a birdie on the 12th had him back in a share before a stunning approach to the next gave him a chance to get his nose back in front.

Playing partner Bezuidenhout made a birdie to briefly make it a three-way tie but when Stone followed him in, he was back ahead on his own.

The South African pair both had eagle putts on the 15th but had to settle for birdies and Brooks moved back level with Bezuidenhout as he followed their lead with a gain on the 13th.

Stone's rollercoaster of a round continued as he went from six bogeys in seven holes from the fifth to four birdies in five from the 12th with a gain on the 16th moving him two ahead.

A good two-putt on the par-three 17th then brought a fist-pumping celebration of relief from Stone and when Bezuidenhout failed to follow him in, his chance was gone.

The rookie was in tears on the 18th green as he watched Bezuidenhout claim a birdie and then rolled in his own par putt. It was then only a matter of waiting for Brooks to finish.

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