Pearl Valley amateur Keagan Thomas won his first Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour title in emphatic style with a wire-to-wire performance on the Race to Q-School series at Modderfontein Golf Club.
The 22-year-old fired an opening eight-under-par to take pole position on day one and kept the field in his rear-view mirror with a round of 69 in the second round.
He came into the final day with a four-stroke lead, and while he saw his advantage trimmed to three shots, a closing 71 landed Thomas in the winner's circle on a 12-under-par total.
The victory completes a remarkable rise for the former KwaZulu-Natal golfer, who has set his sights on securing a 2020/2021 Sunshine Tour card at the upcoming qualifying school in March.
"I'm pretty stoked with this win. It's a direct result of a career plan that started in 2017 and it feels really good to tick another box on my journey to the pro ranks,â€ Thomas said.
The former KwaZulu-Natal standout enrolled at the Swingfit Academy at De Zalze in Stellenbosch in 2015 after matriculating from Hilton College.
"I considered turning pro first, but then decided against it. I took a sabbatical from competitive golf and complete my PGA diploma first,â€ he explained. "I believe it was the best career decision I could have made at the time.
"About two years ago, Murray Smit joined the Swingfit Academy and became my coach. He worked out a model for my career, a kind of a bucket list of goals to achieve. Together we started to hone my game for the pro circuit.â€
Thomas first competed on the Western Province amateur circuit, where he racked up 16 victories and 10 runner-up finishes.
After his PGA graduation, he began competing on the national amateur circuit last year and rocketed to ninth on the 2019 GolfRSA Open Amateur rankings with nine top 10 finishes in 11 starts.
"The depth in amateur golf is at an all-time high and competing on the national circuit was a great learning curve,â€ said Thomas.
"To get a sense of where my game was at, I entered two of the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour events. I came 16th in my first start at Centurion Country Club and finished fourth in the second one at Krugersdorp Golf Club.
"I was happy to see that was on the right track, but the experience also taught me how important the mental game becomes when the going gets tough. So Murray and I kept on working on my game and I put in a lot of work with my mental coach Mark Fairbanks.â€Thomas said, while his game held up at Modderfontein, it was the mental game that got him to the finish line.
"I played the SA Open qualifier at Modderfontein in early January, so I did have some knowledge of the course. I substituted my 2-iron for my 3-wood this week, because I hit it long and straight and you need that at this course. The mental game did the rest,â€ Thomas said.
"It was all going my way in the first round, but I had to grind it out over the last two rounds and my course management got me through. And my caddie Matthew Christwell deserves some praise, too.
"Matthew has been on the bag for all the big events over the last two years and he has helped me to a lot of good finishes. It's awesome to share my first big win with him.
"There is still a long road ahead, but each week out here on the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour is beneficial. I am out here fine-tuning my game, both on the course and mentally, and competing against some very experienced guys. I am looking forward to taking a strong game and a positive mind-set to the Final Stage of Q-School.â€
Quintin Wilsnach fired a bogey-free 68 to finish alone in second on nine-under, with Keaton Slatter and Clayton Mansfield a further stroke adrift after closing rounds of 69 and 70.