Ockie Strydom tames Leopard Creek to seal Alfred Dunhill Championship glory

Ockie Strydom tames Leopard Creek to seal Alfred Dunhill Championship glory
Ockie Strydom of South Africa lifts the Alfred Dunhill Championship trophy at Leopard Creek Country Club on 11 December 2022 in Malelane. (Photo: Warren Little / Getty Images)

Ockie Strydom, a 37-year-old journeyman professional from Kempton Park, delivered a clinical performance to claim a life-changing victory at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club.

Ockie Strydom, who has been plying his trade on the Sunshine Tour for 13 years, entered the 2022 Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club in Malelane, Mpumalanga, ranked 384th in the world. 

Strydom, who is undoubtedly the definition of a journeyman, has spent much of his career as a bridesmaid. He has accumulated 19 runner-up finishes in professional events over the course of his career. 

Before Sunday, 11 December, his lone win on the Sunshine Tour was at the 2019 Vodacom Origins of Golf at Sishen Golf Club, where he secured a six-stroke victory over a then 22-year-old Thriston Lawrence, last week’s SA Open winner.

strydom leopard creek

Ockie Strydom on day three of the 2022 Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club in Malelane. (Photo: Tyrone Winfield / Sunshine Tour / Gallo Images)

Since turning professional in 2009, Strydom has racked up R7.2-million in prize money, consistently ranking near the top of the Sunshine Tour’s order of merit.

He had two previous top 10s on the DP World Tour, highlighted by a third place at the 2011 South African Open Championship, where he took home R589,000, his highest career earnings at a single event.

In seven previous appearances at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, Strydom never finished inside the top 50.

But fast forward to Leopard Creek’s island green 18th hole at 4pm on Sunday, 11 December. Strydom’s par putt dropped, his putter hit the ground and his hands were on his head — a dream years in the making had been realised.

As it happened 

Strydom began the day tied for the lead at 15-under-par with Scotland’s Scott Jamieson, two strokes clear of England’s Dale Whitnell, Oliver Bekker and Dean Burmester. 

He had equalled the course record with a nine-under-par 63 during Saturday’s third round, matching Jamieson’s round from the day before. 

With his brother-in-law Jaris Kruger on the bag, Strydom started off steadily in the final round, playing his first eight holes in one under. Jamieson trailed one behind.

But at Leopard Creek, trouble lurks around every corner, and both Strydom and Jamieson found the water with their approach shots on the par-four ninth — each player walking off with a double bogey six. 

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The result meant Spain’s Adrian Otaegui, who had opened with a 33 (-2) on the front nine, was now tied for the lead at 14-under alongside Strydom. 

But the veteran from Kempton Park didn’t let the mistake derail him, opening the back nine with two birdies on holes 10 and 11 to surge into the lead on his own.

And despite multiple players making charges on the back nine, including Louis Oosthuizen, MJ Daffue, Branden Grace, Oliver Bekker and England’s Laurie Canter, Strydom continued to push on, adding further birdies at 13 and 14 to take a stranglehold of the tournament at 18 under par.

The final stretch 

Holding a three-stroke lead with four holes to play over Otaegui and Canter, who had finished, it may have seemed the tournament was all but over — but with water lurking on three of the last four holes, Strydom still had work to do.

And he was more than up to the task.

After navigating his way to a stress-free par on 15, Strydom holed two crucial par putts on 16 and 17 to maintain his lead heading to the 18th tee.

Meanwhile, playing in the group ahead, Otaegui, a four-time winner on the DP World Tour, hit his approach shot into the island green par-five to three feet and holed the resulting birdie putt to post 16-under-par for the tournament — giving Strydom a two-shot buffer playing the last.

With the famous island green having claimed countless victims during the week, anything could happen.

At the 2007 Alfred Dunhill Championship, Ernie Els arrived at the 18th tee with the same two-stroke lead. But after finding the water twice and racking up a triple-bogey eight on the par five, Els lost the tournament by one to John Bickerton, who was already packing up in the locker room.

Strydom, who himself has admitted to always playing aggressively, decided to play it safe with an iron off the tee, finding the middle of the fairway before carefully laying up his second shot short of the water.

With the flag tucked in the back right portion of the green, Strydom safely found the middle of the green with his third shot. And after two-putting for par, he was the champion.

A winner at last 

With rounds of 68, 70, 63 and 69, Strydom secured his first victory on the DP World Tour, taking home a cheque for more than R4.6-million, which equates to 63% of his career earnings before the event. He also gains full status on the DP World Tour.

“Everyone here — thank you. My host that had me this week, Brian — unbelievable. All credit to him. My wife is probably crying at home, my parents are crying at home, and to my caddie — thanks a lot,” said an emotional Strydom in his winning interview.

He described Leopard Creek as his “favourite place”.

“To sink the winning putt on such a prestigious green as this 18th is amazing for me. Walking on to this island green is always special. It’s something I always wanted to achieve. My dad has also always wanted me to win one of these,” said Strydom.

“It feels good. I’ve finally done it. To do it at Leopard Creek as well is something special.” 

Having originally planned to play the Sunshine Tour next year, Strydom’s plans have now changed.

“This changes my life. It’s two years on the DP World Tour now,” he said. “I’m probably going to get my flights and everything ready for Abu Dhabi then.” DM


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