Coetzee hangs on to win Telkom PGA Championship

George Coetzee at the 2010 Vivendi Cup

George Coetzee at the 2010 Vivendi Cup

JOHANNESBURG – George Coetzee was having to pour in birdies just to keep pace. He was wondering if his swing would hold up under pressure. Then, on the back nine, his group was put on the clock for slow play. None of it seemed to faze him Sunday at the Telkom PGA Championship.

With a final-round 64 at Johannesburg Country Club, Coetzee edged Neil Schietekat by two strokes to win on the Sunshine Tour for the first time since 2008.

“I don’t think there are a lot of people who have hit more balls than me over the past two years,” said Coetzee, 24. “But I’m very glad it’s finally paid off, because while you’re battling, the question is always whether you’ll get out of the rut.”

Coetzee finished at 27-under 261 and earned 515,125 rand (approximately $73,543). Three shots back was Branden Grace, the man with whom Coetzee battled all week, and Garth Mulroy, who closed with 64.

The final group was put on the clock on the 14th hole, and perhaps not coincidentally, Grace began to falter. After an adventurous par on 14, he made consecutive bogeys to fall off the pace. Coetzee, meanwhile, birdied the final two holes to claim the title.

“It was unfortunate (to be put on the clock),” Coetzee said. “Gracie was very aware of it, and he was rushing his shots. I knew it would make a difference, and I tried to make sure it didn’t make a difference to me. I tried to tell myself that I am a quick player and not to worry about it.”

How did he stay composed?

“I tend to try and fire at flags all day long,” he said, “and Johann Rupert told me at last week’s tournament to be a little less aggressive when things got tough, and I did that a lot.”

Coetzee added his name to an impressive list of past champions, including Gary Player, Ernie Els, Nick Price and 2010 Brititsh Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.

“During the week, I kept telling myself that I don’t care whose names are on that trophy; to me it’s just about winning the trophy,” Coetzee said. “Now I see there are a lot of great names on it, and I would love to follow in their footsteps and do great things.”

Information from the Sunshine Tour was used in this report.

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