A thrilling one-shot victory for George Coetzee on his home course was made all the sweeter by the cheers of a host of new golf fans on the final day of the 2015 Tshwane Open on Sunday, 15 March.
The €1.5-million tournament went down to the wire, with crowd favourite Coetzee keeping his cool to take his second European Tour trophy - he won his first at last year's Joburg Open - despite a superb final round 61 from runner-up Jacques Blaauw.
Dean Burmester made it a South African 1-2-3 in the European Tour co-sanctioned event, with Scotland's Craig Lee following in fourth place overall.
"I loved the fans," Coetzee told journalists afterwards. "When I was growing up I dreamt about
playing in front of galleries like that, and the crowds just seemed to get bigger and bigger."
And the fans loved him back - among them Thandiswa Skosana, a 70-year-old grandmother from Soshanguve who has just started a golfing group for the elderly women in her neighbourhood. They are still beginners, Skosana said, and the Tshwane Open gave them the ideal opportunity to learn more about the sport.
Skosana added that she was also learning about the social aspect of the game. "I have just made friends with Americans. It is such a great experience to be meeting new people."
The Open has been drawing larger and larger crowds to Pretoria Country Club since teeing off on Thursday. Among the daily visitors was Thabisa Lekola, who expressed satisfaction with the quality of play and the welcoming atmosphere at the tournament.
"I have been coming here since Thursday," said Lekola. "It is so positive to see communities coming together to enjoy the game."
Afrikaans rapper Jack Parow came for the Tshwane Open Market, a food and craft market running alongside the Open, and stayed for the final rounds of golf. The Market offered a variety of home-made cakes, ginger beer and craft beers for people needing a breaking from the golfing suspense.
But Parow was sold on the excitement of the competition. "It is a cool event and a great way to chill with friends," he said, adding: "We are all eagerly waiting for the final winner."
The R100 000 Tshwane Ladies Open, now in its second year, tees off at the same venue on Monday, 16 March. South Africa's top women professionals will be taking part in the event.