Sunshine Tour

Palmer makes dramatic breakthrough in Kenya victory

Michael Palmer (Gallo Images)
Michael Palmer (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Michael Palmer capped one of the most dramatic form turnarounds imaginable as he won the KCB Karen Masters at Karen Country Club by two strokes for his maiden Sunshine Tour title.

He closed with a five-under-par 67 to beat off the challenge of Merrick Bremner. Pieter Moolman and Tyrone Ryan shared third a further shot back.

What makes something seemingly as simple as that is that this tournament represented the first time Palmer had made the cut in seven tries in the 2018-19 season.

"This title is huge for me," he said. "Two months ago, I was thinking to myself, 'Is it even worth coming to Kenya?'. The year’s been so bad - the negative thoughts don't stop. It's my first cut this year! It's just a huge turnaround. I can't believe it."

He started the round one stroke off the lead, and a nervy start saw him reach the halfway mark in level-par after making birdie on two, and bogey at the turn.

"It was a bit disappointing to make bogey on nine," he said. "I hit a bad tee shot and had to punch out and take my medicine. I just tried to stick in there, and I got hot at the end when it counted."

And, boy, did he ever get hot. He made five birdies in a homeward none of 31, including two in a row on 17 and 18 which lifted him well enough clear that he could enjoy the feeling of winning.

"The birdie on 17 was huge," he said of the putt which elicited a celebration worthy of the win.

"I knew that it meant that anyone else was going to have to go really low on the last two if they were going to catch me."

Even so, he battled to remember what it was like coming down the stretch after he hot his approach on the par-five 18 just beyond the pin into the fringe to give himself a chance of eagle, and an almost certain birdie.

Because his year had been so poor, just being in the position in which he found himself was dizzying.

"I've been getting more and more excited this whole week," he said. "This weekend has been about trying to relax and calm my nerves a bit, but down the stretch was quite thrilling.

"I barely remember the tee shot. The approach was quite tricky, actually, because my ball was sitting down in the rough, and with the wind behind, you can’t stop it on the green. Luckily I landed into one of the slopes and that slowed it down."

For long periods of the final round, it looked likely that Ryan was going to cruise away with the title. He had it to 17-under heading up the 13th when disaster struck. A poor tee shot saw him eventually write down a seven on his card for the par-four hole, and that effectively dumped him out of contention.

Bremner was two over through the turn, but three successive birdies from the 10thsaw him roaring back into contention. However, a bogey on the par-three 14th left him with too much to do and even birdies on 17 and 18 weren’t enough.

So, from being literally stone last on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, Palmer finds himself in seventh after the Nairobi event. And he has secured his Sunshine Tour card for the next couple of years.

"Having won nothing on the Order of Merit up until now… I can’t believe it," he said. "I've never really had this problem that I get into all the big tournaments on the Sunshine Tour. I haven't even thought about having to travel to some of the co-sanctioned events like Mauritius. It's exciting."

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