28 January 2008
James Kamte raised his hands in praise after scoring a history-making 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.
By winning, Kamte became the first black South African to record a victory on the tough Summer Swing of the Sunshine Tour.
Three shots clear
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 final round 74 to finish alone in second on eight-under, one shot ahead of Peter Karmis, who finished alone in third at seven-under after a final round 71.
Six-time Sunshine Tour winner Thomas Aiken, who held a share of the lead through the 16th, birdied the last hole after signing for an eight at the 17th to claim a share of third 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.
‘You only need two birdies’
“I had a great birdie at the 10th and 12th and, walking up the 13th fairway, I could just make out that I was lying second. That was the kick I needed. Even after that bogey, I just told myself: ‘You only need two birdies, James'”.
Aiken, playing a couple of matches ahead, was the outsider who made the biggest run at it. He turned in 33 and added birdies at 11 and 14. He was heading for a 67 or lower, but what looked like a potential playoff 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 R285 300 winner’s cheque with a birdie three at the 14th. One shot ahead of Kingston, he set up another four-footer at the 15th and holed it to widen the gap to two shots.
“I thought to myself, ‘Wow, now I’m two ahead – now they have to catch me,'” said Kamte.
Perfect tee shot
At the 17th, he hit a perfect tee shot to split the fairway and followed that up by pitching 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 champions’ 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,” he said.
Colourfully decked out in orange trousers, bright red shorts and a bright red cap, Kamte entertained with some colourful golf but couldn’t quite get the last putt on the final hole to drop for a birdie to end his day in a blaze of glory.
However, even as his first attempt died inches before the hole, his signature smile exploded onto his face before he tapped in for victory.
There have been other champions of colour. Swaziland’s Joe Dlamini won a Swazi Open title when it was still part of the Summer Swing, and Vijay Singh won the South African Open. But they weren’t South Africans.
And there have been several black South Africans winners on the Winter Swing of the Sunshine Tour, including John Mashego (1991), Lindani Ndwandwe (2001), Zimbabwe’s Tongoona Charamba (2006) and Kamte at Dainfern in September 2007.
Papwa Swegolum, who annexed a couple of Natal Opens in the first half of the 1960s, should also be remembered.
After his history-making victory, Kamte leaves for the Middle East where he will be contesting the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic.
Higher stakes coming up
Proudly South African, he is delighted that his preparation at Sun City paid such high dividends because the stakes will be much higher in Dubai with around €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 USA, teamed with his amateur partner Craig Harris to win the R200 000 Betterball Medal competition from Kamte and his partner, Sam Hackner, on a winning score of 28-under-par 260.
Source: Sunshine Tour