PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa — Ugo Coussaud claimed the South African Stroke Play Championship title on Friday, but the first French champion in the history of the prestigious event had to show some real French flair at the final hole to triumph at Port Elizabeth Golf Club.
Coussaud carded a final round four-under-par 68 to clinch a three stroke victory over South Africa’s Rupert Kaminski on a winning score of 15-under-par 273.
The 22-year-old Angouleme golfer was extremely pleased to have his name edged alongside such greats as four-time Major winner Ernie Els, former Masters champion Trevor Immelman and European Tour champions Richard Sterne, Branden Grace and Dawie van der Walt.
“I don’t really know if I want to laugh or cry,” Coussaud said. “My arms are still shaking a little. This is the most unbelievable moment of my life. I don’t know what to do; I just want to smile.”
Coussaud flashed a dazzling smile at the crowds after boxing a long uphill putt for birdie at the 18th, but the lanky Bordeaux golfer was not smiling just 15 minutes earlier.
He flew his tee shot nearly 290 meters, but it headed straight into the rough on the right. He pulled his approach at the par-five closing hole and the ball travelled straight to the 10th tee.
The Frenchman found his ball nestled against an irrigation hose a flowerbed next to the tee box.
His only option out of trouble was to chip the ball backwards in the direction of the fairway, but the hose interfered with his swing.
“The rules official determined that the hose was an immovable obstruction because we couldn’t lift it or move it and I was given a free drop in some thick grass next to the flowers,” Coussaud explained.
He still had a huge distance to cover to the pin, which was set at the back of the green, but the Laval University graduate showed great composure and his chip landed 20-feet below the hole.
“I knew I was in trouble after my tee shot,” Coussaud said.
“I drove it very far, but it was buried in the thick rough. My little arms were still aching when I got to the flowerbed, because I hit the ball very hard to get it out of that thick grass.
I wasn’t too nervous, because I knew I had three shots in hand and chipping is the best part of my game. But it felt really good to make the birdie after all the drama.”
Coussaud announced his presence in the championship with an opening 66 and lagged one off the pace from Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson.
He carded a second 71 to finish two behind joint leaders Kaminski and Luke Trocado from South Africa, and started the final round on 11 under and just one shot adrift of Kaminski.
The Parkview golfer opened with three successive bogeys and Coussaud quickly took advantage and erased a drop at the second with back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth.
He took the pole position with a birdie at the par-five eighth and pulled away from the pack with another gain at the 11th and a birdie at the 16th after he drove the green.
The Frenchman missed a return putt for bogey at the par-three 17th, but negated the drop with his birdie finish.
“Before this win, my proudest moment was when I won the University National Championships with my team in 2012 in Canada,” the Frenchman said.
“But this is definitely the highlight of my career. To win on my first visit to South Africa is very special.”
Kaminski eagled the par-four 16th and boxed a 12-footer for birdie at the 18th for a 72 to finish alone in second, one stroke ahead of South Africa’s Armandt Scholtz (71) and Romain Langasque from France, who registered rounds of 71 to share third.