Cape Town - While he won’t be defending his title at Country Club Johannesburg this year, Telkom PGA Championship champion George Coetzee remembers his 2011 victory fondly.
The 25-year-old Pretoria Country Club, who is in Arizona to play in the $8.5-million World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, won the Telkom PGA Championship last year after a thrilling final day.
“I think that was pretty much one of the biggest achievements for me because my dad was on the bag and it was an emotional thing for us,” said Coetzee of his brilliant 27-under-par total.
“The whole family was there. It was nice to share one with the family. I think if I win on Wednesday [against Rory McIlroy] it will be a big deal, but I don’t think it will be eclipsing the one me and my dad had last year.”
And it was a great victory for Coetzee: He carded a sparkling eight-under-par 64 in the final round to head off the challenge from Neil Schietekat, who carded a 66 to finish two-strokes back. Garth Mulroy fired a 64 of his own and Branden Grace signed for a 69 as those two shared third a further two strokes back.
Coetzee’s final score of 261 has been bettered only by 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen’s 260 when he won the event in 2008, and by David Frost’s 259 in 1994 at Wanderers Golf Club.
That kind of play cemented the win in Coetzee’s memory, and it elevates it above anything else he has achieved: “I think winning my national amateur is pretty big and playing for my country was pretty big,” he said.
“But obviously there’s a couple of events back home – there’s actually an event back in South Africa that I should have been defending this week, before I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to come here,” he added.
And while Grace has also withdrawn from the tournament – he has not had a break since the Joburg Open – and Mulroy is playing the Maykoba Classic on the US PGA Tour, the other two actors in last year’s drama are back.
Schietekat hasn’t had a great start to the year, but he got his season on track with a share of 33rd in last week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am.
Oliver Bekker won that tournament, and he – like Coetzee – finished with a 64 in the final round of the Telkom PGA Championship on his way to fifth place.
The tournament starts on Thursday.