Top 15 for Gleeson as Gillberg wins South African Stroke Play with record low
 Oliver Gillberg from Sweden set a new 72-hole tournament record with a score of 27-under-par 261 with his victory in the 2018 South African Stroke Play Championship at Pecanwood Golf and Country Club; credit Ernest Blignault.

Oliver Gillberg from Sweden set a new 72-hole tournament record with a score of 27-under-par 261 with his victory in the 2018 South African Stroke Play Championship at Pecanwood Golf and Country Club; credit Ernest Blignault.

Castle's Alex Gleeson followed up his fifth-place finish in the South American Amateur last month with a share of 13th in the South Africa Stoke Play

The Dubliner closed with a 70 to finish on 15-under par at Pecanwood Golf and Country Estate as Sweden's  Oliver Gillberg shot 68 to win the title by a shot from South Africa's Matt Saulez on 27-under 261 — the lowest 72-hole total in the event's 49-year history.

Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty shot 66 and Tramore's Robin Dawson a 73 to share 26th on 11-under 277 with Kilkenny's Mark Power tied 31st on 278 after a 69 and Naas Jonathan Yates 55th on 286 after a 73.

A bogey at the last cost Gleeson a top-10 finish but he was never going to catch Gillberg, who beat the previous record aggregrate set by Richard Sterne at Oppenheimer Park in 2001 by five strokes.

Lali Stander reported:

“It’s been an unbelievable week; unforgettable,” Gilbert said, reading the names of the previous champions on the trophy’s base. “This is definitely the best week of my life.”

He opened with a 67, took command with a flawless 62 in the second round and kept the chasing pack at bay with a third round 64. Over the last 36 holes, Gillberg never wavered, irrespective of what big-hitting South Africans Matt Saulez and Wilco Nienaber threw at him.

“I was two shots clear of Matt and four ahead of Wilco, so I felt pretty confident, but those guys were relentless,” said Gilbert.

“They just kept coming at me, putting pressure all the time. I stayed in my own head, played my own game. Like when they drove it 30 metres past me, I stuck with my strategy, because my irons were really good all week.”

Gillberg erased a bogey at the third with a birdie-eagle-birdie combination from four.

He turned three under with a three-shot cushion, but Saulez chipped in for eagle at 10 to shorten the gap. Gillberg responded with a birdie at 10, reeled in two more gains at 11 and 12 to put some space back between him and the KwaZulu-Natal golfer.

Then disaster struck at the par-four 14th and, with four holes to play, Saulez had an open door.

“I was in the fairway at 14, but I was between clubs,” he explained. “I hit a pitching wedge a little loose and it came out really bad. It was too low and the ball hit the bank and spun back into the water.

“I hit it from the rough in the water hazard, but I only moved it about 20 centimetres. Then I chipped it too long and missed the putt.”

Saulez missed his chance when he left a 12-footer for birdie short at 15, but he made a great birdie at 16 to cut the deficit to just one shot.

“I won’t lie; my hands were sweating,” said Gillberg. “I used all the experience from the Nordea Masters and European Tour Qualifying School to stay calm. I made good pars at 16 and 17. I knew I could win it when we went down 18.”

Saulez pitched it past the hole and he had a 12-footer left for birdie. His effort skimmed the hole and that Gillberg, pin-high right, with two putts from 10 feet to seal the win.

“I birdied 18 on the first round, but every round after the birdie putt wouldn’t drop. It stopped an inch from the hole in round two and ran around the cup in round three. I looked at the putt; I looked at the hole and I just pushed it close. It stopped, again, on the edge of the hole. But par was good enough.”

Saulez closed with a 67 to finish second and Nienaber took route 66 to third on 25-under.

South African Stroke Play Championship, Pecanwood Golf and Country Estate (Par 72, RSA unless stated)

Detailed scores

261 Oliver Gillberg SWE 67 62 64 68

262 Matt Saulez 67 64 64 67

263 Wilco Nienaber 65 64 68 66

269 Neal Woernhard SUI 72 70 64 63

270 Louis Albertse 66 67 69 68; Sam Locke SCO 69 68 65 68; James du Preez 65 68 68 69

271 Stals Swart 67 72 68 64

272 Andre van Heerden (Jnr) 70 71 67 64; Frédéric LaCroix FRA 71 69 64 68; Cameron Moralee 74 65 64 69; Christiaan Burke 70 66 67 69

273 Martin Vorster 68 70 67 68; Yurav Premlall 69 69 67 68; Alex Gleeson IRL 72 67 64 70

274 Edgar Catherine FRA 67 70 68 69; Jayden Schaper 69 70 65 70; Ludwig Aberg SWE 65 68 70 71

275 Jordan Burnand 70 69 69 67; Victor Veyret FRA 71 70 65 69; Calum Fyfe SCO 67 67 71 70; Yashas Chandra IND 72 65 68 70

276 Clayton Mansfield 70 67 72 67; Ruhan van Dijk 69 70 68 69; Dylan Kok 69 69 66 72

277 Caolan Rafferty IRL 70 71 70 66; Darren Howie SCO 69 69 70 69; David Mcintyre 69 68 69 71; David Nyfjall SWE 70 69 65 73; Robin Dawson IRL 68 65 71 73

278 Malcolm Mitchell 70 69 71 68; Mark Power IRL 70 67 72 69; Nicholaus Frade 74 66 68 70; Luca Filippi 71 68 67 72

279 Keegan Mclachlan 68 73 70 68; Euan Walker GBR 70 64 74 71

280 Jack Gaunt ENG 71 71 70 68; Charles Larcelet FRA 70 70 69 71; Otto van Buynder 69 72 67 72

282 David Langley GBR 70 71 70 71; Ruan Botha 67 71 71 73; Loris Schuepbach SUI 68 72 69 73; Gustav Andersson SWE 67 70 68 77

283 Alan Lones 74 68 73 68; Clément Charmasson FRA 69 69 73 72; Theunie Bezuidenhout 67 72 71 73; Keaton Slatter 64 68 74 77

284 Jan-louis Nel 68 73 73 70; Nicola Gerhardsen 67 75 71 71; Carlos Laranja 72 70 68 74

285 Jeremy Freiburghaus SUI 68 73 75 69; Cole Stevens 69 71 76 69; Christian Basson 65 77 72 71; Ryan van Velzen 66 69 74 76

286 Keanu Pestana 74 65 79 68; Loic Ettlin SUI 72 69 73 72; Deon Germishuys 71 68 75 72; Jonathan Yates IRL 71 69 73 73; Hayden Griffiths 71 69 69 77; Erhard Lambrechts 69 67 71 79

288 Keelan van Wyk 72 69 75 72

289 Oliver Goldhill 69 73 73 74

293 Matthew Hands 68 72 77 76

294 Nikhil Gopal 70 70 73 81

WD Pierre Pineau FRA 68 70 71 WD