Jack Hume won all four of the boys provincial championships in 2010 but while he claimed the West of Ireland title in 2014, his CV was lacking a major international win until this week.
It was fitting, therefore, that the flawless, eight under par 64 to claim the South African Stroke Play Championship by a stroke from compatriot Stuart Grehan and South Africa’s Jason Smith was described by Lali Stander for the South African Golf Association as “one of the classiest performances of the week.”
A Walker Cup winner last year, the quietly spoken 22-year old from Naas Golf Club does not look like a man intent on mischief and made a habit of going low in recent final rounds without much reward.
In November, he shot a nine under 63 in the final round of the Second Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School to make a six man playoff for the 18th and last spot at Panorámica Golf and Sport Resort in Castellón but he lost out at at the second extra hole.
Then just last week, he closed with a 65 to snatch third place in the Liberty Gauteng North Open to give his rivals this week fair warning. This time he proved to be the ultimate assassin.
While the world No 39 appeared to be very much an outsider for the title when he went into the final round six strokes adrift of Smith and Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson, he wasn't quite done.
With the help of a faithful local caddie, he went out in 32, picked up a fifth birdie at the 13th and then birdied the last three holes to clinch a thrilling one stroke victory — the second by an Irishman in this event since Dunfanaghy’s Ciaran McMonagle won at East London Golf Club in 2000.
His 19 under par total of 269 made him the first player to dip under the 270 mark since Richard Sterne won with a 22 under total of 266 total at Oppenheimer Park in 2001.
According to the South African Golf Association, he was absolutely thrilled with the day’s outcome after a shaky start.
“I knew I would have to shoot a low one to have any chance, but I struggled off the tee and battled to save par at the first few holes,” said Hume.
“I have to credit my caddie – Joseph Mohulatsi – for keeping me calm. He told me to stay patient, the putts would drop. I really wanted to take advantage of the par fives, so it was a great relief when the first birdie putt dropped at the third.
“I missed a close call at five, but made the birdie at six. The birdies at eight and nine really got my momentum going and I got it to 16 under with a birdie 13. I knew I had a chance, but it was very tight.”
Ferguson bowed out of tussle when he dropped five shots around the turn, but Smith and Grehan were fighting for pole position in the final group. Smith led on 18 under and Grehan lurked a further shot back after both birdied 13.
“Both my birdie putts at 14 and 15 shaved the hole and the pressure was on,” Hume said.
“I knew they would both go for the green at 17 and 18 is a par five, so I gunned my drive down the 16th fairway. I had 128 meters to the pin and I hit it four feet and made the putt.
"My tee shot at 17 flew well past the flag, but I fancied the birdie putt. It was 35 feet and downhill. The downhill putts hold the line really well on these greens and I hit this one perfectly.”
The South African had dropped shots at 15 and 16, but Grehan birdied 16 to tie Hume at 18 under.
After a solid tee shot and approach, Hume chipped to three feet, boxed the birdie putt and settled in to see if Smith or Grehan would force a play-off.
Smith rallied with a birdie at 17 to get back to 17 under, but Grehan missed his chance to tie Hume’s 19-under target.
Smith’s chip for eagle at 18 finished agonisingly close to the hole, while Grehan’s chip sped past the flag. The Irishman’s birdie effort fell short, but Smith drained his four-footer for birdie to grab a share of second.
Hume could finally exhale and enjoy the moment.
“I had no idea that this was such a prestigious achievement until I saw some of the names on the trophy,” the world number 39 ranked amateur said.
“It’s an amazing feeling to hold this trophy and realise that my name will be there next to guys like Branden Grace, Richard Sterne and Trevor Immelman. This is an incredible victory for me and for Ireland.”
Grehan, who is sure to climb from 153rd in the world rankings, shot a 70 and had the satisfaction of posting a 10 under par, course record 62 earlier in the week.
While John Ross Galbraith had a poor nine hole run and missed the cut, it was a good week for the eight strong Irish contingent.
Faithlegg’s Robin Dawson tied for 20th on 10 under thanks to a closing 67 with Rowan Lester 29th after a 72.
Warrenpoint’s was 32nd on seven under, also after a 72, while Alex Gleeson (74) slipped to 40th and Dermot McElroy (73) tied for 44th.
South African Strokeplay Championship, Blue Valley Golf Estate (Par 72)
1 −19 Jack Hume Naas GC 67 70 68 64 269
T2 −18 Ireland Stuart Grehan Tullamore 70 62 68 70 270
T2 −18 South Africa Jason Smith Irene Country Club 64 68 67 71 270
4 −15 South Africa James du Preez Pretoria Country Club 71 68 69 65 273
T5 −14 Sweden Tim Widing A6 Golf Club 70 63 69 72 274
T5 −14 South Africa Jovan Rebula George Golf Club 69 65 72 68 274
T5 −14 South Africa Paul Boshoff Serengeti Golf And Wildlife Estate 68 72 64 70 274
T5 −14 Scotland Ewen Ferguson Bearsden GC 67 64 68 75 274
T5 −14 South Africa Aubrey Beckley Potchefstroom Country Club 65 66 72 71 274
T10 −13 Scotland Connor Syme Drumoig Golf Club 68 68 72 67 275
T10 −13 Scotland Bob MacIntyre Glencruitten GC 67 70 70 68 275
T10 −13 South Africa Brandon Cloete Pezula Championship Course 66 66 72 71 275
T10 −13 Scotland −13 Scott Gibson Southerness GC 65 75 67 68 275
T20 −10 Ireland Robin Dawson Faithlegg Golf Club 73 70 68 67 278
T29 −8 Ireland Rowan Lester Hermitage 70 64 74 72 280
T32 −7 Ireland Colm Campbell Warrenpoint 73 67 69 72 281
T40 −5 Ireland Alex Gleeson Castle Golf Club 70 69 70 74 283
T44 −4 Ireland Dermot McElroy Ballymena 68 70 73 73 284
MC Ireland John Galbraith Whitehead 72 73 MC MC 145