Stone wins by seven as Dunne tops Irish challenge at Leopard Creek
 Brandon Stone. Picture: Sunshine Tour 

Brandon Stone. Picture: Sunshine Tour 

Paul Dunne will be focussing on positives of haul of 18 birdies rather than the 11 bogeys that cost him chance of a first Top 10 of the 2016-17 season in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

The Greystones man, 24, heads to this week’s year-ending Hong Kong Open with €10,650 on the board after he closed with a 72 to share 28th with former Walker Cup team mate Ashley Chesters on five under par at Leopard Creek.

Scores

He can reflect on a great year too having retained his European Tour card with a sterling second half of the season, the highlight of which was arguably the third round 66 in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship which helped him made a crucial cut when he was under severe pressure to keep his card.

That he finished 17 strokes behind Brandon Stone on Sunday was a mere anecdote as the South African shot 67 and won by seven strokes from compatriot Richard Sterne and Belgian Thomas Detry as he romped to his second European Tour win on 22 under par.

“Any time you get a victory on home soil, it’s massive,” he said. “I won the SA Open at the start of the year and there was a little more fire in my belly at the beginning of this week to end the year strong. 

"Leopard Creek is an incredible place and I’ve love coming here since I was a kid carrying my Dad’s bag. So to have my name on the trophy now is obviously very special, but it’s tough to sum up how the emotions are running right now.”

To get the job done, he had to see off the attentions of the four-time Leopard Creek champion Charl Schwartzel, and after the 2011 Masters champion had gone through six holes, he’d drawn level with Stone. 

But Schwartzel’s game was strangely off – especially through the homeward nine, on which he had scored so well all week – and when he dropped six shots in four holes from 13 to 16, the game was up.

Sterne, the 2008 champion at Leopard Creek, showed that he’s close to his best again as he closed with a 67, and Detry, a graduate from the Challenge Tour, capped a great start to his rookie season. 

“I would have taken a top 10 but now to be in the top five is just amazing,” said the Belgian. “Good start and just got to keep doing what I am doing.”

For the champion, the rest of the holiday season will be about savouring what he’s achieved in 2016. And then preparing to do more in 2017. 

“I’ll give myself maybe a week of rest and then I’m going to get back into preparation,” he said. “I’ve got a stern task ahead of me with Rory McIlroy coming out to the BMW SA Open.”

Michael Hoey brought the season down on a disappointing 2016 that saw him lose his European Tour card by closing with a 75 to finish 37th on three under par, earning €8,160.