Englishman Chris Paisley scoops SA Open from home boy Grace
Paisley (and his wife and caddie Keri) follow in the footsteps of countryman Graeme Storm at the SA Open golf tournament
The lack of a strong international contingent was lamented before the start of the SA Open but as the shadows lengthened at the Glendower Golf Club outside Johannesburg on Sunday‚ an Englishman strode purposefully to the title.
Chris Paisley (and his wife and caddie Keri) followed in the footsteps of countryman Graeme Storm — who also beat significant odds in the process — to lift the trophy.
Twelve months ago Storm was surprised by eventually conquering Rory McIlroy in a three-hole play-off and Paisley was perhaps even more impressive in keeping at bay the advances of SA’s favourite, Branden Grace.
Although his wife is not his regular caddie‚ Keri helped calm the 31-year-old when he shot into the lead on the seventh.
"I wasn’t going to play this week and my plan was to go straight to Abu Dhabi‚" he said.
I just tried to do what I did all week. I felt comfortable with my swing.
"I told my caddie that and he booked a holiday in Germany‚ in the Alps. Then I decided to play.
"I told him not to worry, I’ll just get Keri onto the bag.
"I’m not sure if he is delighted about that. I can’t say enough of how well she did and what it meant walking up the 18th with her," he said.
"She caddied a few times for me in my amateur days.
"She doesn’t play golf but she knows her way around a golf course," said Paisley.
When the University of Tennessee graduate started the day one shot clear of Grace‚ it was widely felt he needed a greater cushion to stay ahead of the South African in front of his adoring fans.
Grace‚ after all‚ widened that base by winning November’s Nedbank Challenge, and once he played himself back into contention with a third-round 66‚ his coronation as SA Open champion seemed on the cards.
Although there was nothing graceful in the South African’s demise‚ Paisley, who showed great composure‚ played splendidly to go into a four-shot lead by the time he birdied the par-four 10th.
Grace started well with a birdie and an eagle on the first two holes to grab the lead but things unravelled on the par-three sixth.
He took two shots to get out of the greenside bunker before missing a short putt for birdie.
Grace eagled the 13th but his determined playing partner was not letting up.
A nerveless birdie putt on the 15th pretty much confirmed his champion status as he went five shots clear and set him on course for a maiden title on the European Tour.
His final-round 66 sealed the deal‚ finishing three shots clear of Grace, who carded a 68‚ while SA’s JC Ritchie was next best following back-to-back weekend rounds of 65.
Paisley barely looked back once he shot into the lead as Grace’s challenge wilted.
"I just tried to do what I did all week‚" Paisley said. "I felt comfortable with my swing.
"I putted well all week except in the third round, but it is not something I generally struggle with‚" said the dog lover and enthusiastic outdoor cook.
SA’s Hennie Otto stormed through the field with a 64 to finish 11-under‚ while tournament host Ernie Els closed with a 69 to be eight-under.
The tournament’s top amateur was SA’s Kyle McClatchie‚ who carded a closing-round 71 to finish 10-under for the competition.