Two years after he battled for bronze in the same tournament, Gauche put an exclamation mark on his return to form when he defeated Ryan Dreyer in a superb rally to triumph 6 & 4 victory at the Bushwillow Course. “This feels unbelievable good right now,” said the 22-year-old TuksSport Golf Academy student.
“It validates all the hard work I’ve done over the last year to get back into form after the accident and pays back the incredible support from my team. It just proves once again that patience and hard work does pay off.”
Gauche’s last podium finish came in the 2013 Border Championship, and he was well on his way to establishing himself among the top amateurs in the country when a brutal car accident near the end of the season interrupted his rise.
The Wingate Park player broke his C3 and C4 vertebrae and it took weeks of physiotherapy after delicate surgery before he returned to the competitive circuit in April last year.
“It was a hard climb back, made even harder by the fact that I was playing well but just not making any headway,” Gauche said. “I felt like I was knocking all the time in the last few months. Everyone around me told me to stay patient; that the pay-off would come.
“So this isn’t just my victory, but I share this with my parents, my coach Llewellyn van Leeuwen and everyone else at TuksSport Golf Academy.”
Gauche had a rather tough draw against a couple of heavy weights at the Bushwillow Course to gain his spot in the final match against Dreyer.
He first had to navigate his way around recent Proudfoot Trophy champion Greig Marchbank, but he dispatched the Scot 5 & 4 to book a date with South Africa’s number one ranked Tristen Strydom.
“I lost to Tristen three times in Match Play before,” Gauche said. “I was a little apprehensive going into the match, but I played solidly to beat him 3 & 2. It was a little personal triumph for me, but the next match against Philip Geertz was even tougher.”
Gauche defeated the Italian 2 & 1 and downed Scotsman Craig Ross 3 & 2 to reach the final.
Dreyer dispatched Louis Taylor (19th hole), Cameron Moralee (1-up), Albert Venter (2 & 1) and David Meyers (2 & 1) to challenge Gauche for the title.
Gauche took the early lead with an eagle at the third and a couple of birdies later he led 4-up after the first 18 holes, but as expected, Killarney’s Dreyer came back strong over the last 18.
“We all know what a tough competitor Ryan is,” Gauche said.
“He is very experienced and he never gives up. I knew he wouldn’t go down without a fight, so I just kept to the game plan. The biggest threat was complacency, especially after I went 4-up.
“I knew I couldn’t afford to take my foot off the gas with someone like Ryan. With nine holes to play, he reeled in three birdies in a row, which just shows you what a gritty competitor he is.
“I managed to match him with two birdies and parred the last two holes to close out the win.”
Meanwhile Herman Loubser added the Stroke Play trophy to his growing collection.
Loubser carded rounds of 70, 71, 69 and 67 to triumph on 11-under-par 277 and, although the Theewaterskloof golfer was ousted in the first round of the Match Play, the rising Boland junior gained valuable points for a two stroke victory in the Stroke Play Championship.
Scotsman Ewean Ferguson produced a final round 67 to claim a runner-up finish ahead of compatriot Jamie Savage, Andre Nel from Kingswood and 36-hole Mabs Abel Trophy winner Jade Buitendag, also from Kingswood.