Dean Burmester has been knocking on the door for a co-sanctioned title for a while.
When the breakthrough win finally came on Sunday, it was like a dam had burst as he won the Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club in commanding fashion.
The 27-year-old, who has won six times on the Sunshine Tour and has finished in the top 10 in five events co-sanctioned with the European Tour, began the final round one stroke behind leaders Alexander Bjork and Scott Jamieson.
But Burmester birdied the first three holes and the leaders both started with bogeys, leaving the Zimbabwe-born naturalised South African in the lead.
It was an advantage he built into a near-unassailable lead as he collected three more birdies before the turn and posted a staggering 29 for the front nine.
Birdies at the 10th and 12th holes sandwiched his first bogey, on the par-four 11th, and when he spun his tee shot on the 145-metre par-three 14th back to three feet and made the birdie putt, he was six shots clear of the field.
With such a lead, bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes meant little and Burmester signed for a final-round 65 and a total of 18-under-par 266.
“I was so in the zone that I did not know I had reached the turn in 29, but it was a real boost and the first time I’ve done it on tour. And then when I lagged the putt on 18, the emotion was really running high. All the frustration just added to the pressure and I felt I could have played better on the final day at both the Joburg and SA Opens, but something clicked today,” Burmester said.
The son of former Zimbabwe cricketer Mark has been preaching patience whenever pundits have questioned when the breakthrough win he seemed sure to get would finally arrive, and even after his tremendous start on Sunday, he resisted the urge to get ahead of himself.
“I had a sense when I woke up this morning and I had no nerves, which was great. But I was quite nervous when I teed off, but fortunately I hit my best shot all week on the first and that birdie calmed my nerves. And then it just snowballed into three birdies in a row before I knew it. It was the perfect start, but I obviously didn’t think then that I had sealed it, even though that’s how it turned out,” Burmester said.
Superb work off the tee and precision iron shots served him well and the only birdie putts he made from further than 10 feet were his long, curling effort from 45 feet away on the first (that got him going!) and a 15-footer from the edge of the eighth green.
Bjork, new to the European Tour from the Challenge Tour, was unable to play catch-up and settled for a level-par 71 on Sunday, finishing fifth on 13-under-par, while Jamieson continued to struggle on the greens, again missing short putts, as he crashed to a 78 that included three double-bogeys, to end up in a tie for 22nd on six-under-par.
The runners-up berth went to Jorge Campillo of Spain and Finland’s Mikko Korhonen on 15-under-par, three behind Burmester, while American Peter Uihlein climbed to 14-under and fourth place with a 65.
But they all had to play second fiddle to Burmester, for whom so many dreams are now going to come true.
“I’m elated and ecstatic and really looking forward to a full season on the European Tour now. I’m going to be playing all over Europe, which I’m very excited about,” Burmester, a most popular champion, said.