JC RITCHIE carded a five-under par 67 in his final round to successfully defend his Limpopo Championship title and claim the opening tournament on the 2020 Road to Mallorca season.
The South African held off a determined charge from his compatriot Wilco Nienaber at Euphoria Golf Club to seal his second consecutive victory at the tournament.
Ritchie, who had six Sunshine Tour victories going into the Limpopo Championship started the day two shots behind overnight leader Jacques Kruyswijk.
But the 25-year-old, who represents The Els Club Copperleaf, soon took control with three front nine birdies to reach the turn with a one-shot advantage.
And the Pretoria-based pro picked up two further gains over the closing stretch to finish two shots clear of Nienaber on 19-under.
JC Ritchie was bogey-free throughout the weekend and admitted he needed to play some of the best golf of his career to top the 204-player co-sanctioned field.
“It feels really awesome to win this week,” Ritchie said. “After winning last year, to come back and win it again just feels unbelievable – and I don’t think it has started to sink in yet.
“To have the Challenge Tour players coming to play the event this year definitely made defending the title harder.
“And I found myself getting rather nervous on my back nine, but I was able to keep it together well.
“I feel like I played the best golf I possibly could have played this weekend, and I don’t really feel like I could have played any better out there today.
“To play bogey-free over the weekend is crazy good golf, especially with the conditions over the last few days, which were tough.
“I’m planning to head over to Europe to play some events on the Challenge Tour this year,” revealed Ritchie who picked up a cheque for €35,957.35.
“First though, I think there is quite a party waiting for me at home,” he added.
The Limpopo Championship was co-sanctioned with the European Challenge Tour for the first time this season.
Nienaber came agonisingly close to securing his first professional title but was ultimately forced to settle for second place despite carding a sublime five-under 67 to match Ritchie’s Sunday score.
The 19-year-old finished two shots clear of overnight leader Kruyswijk and fellow South African Hennie du Plessis, with Louis de Jager ensuring the host country rounded out the top five places.
JC Ritchie takes an early lead on the Road to Mallorca Rankings as he looks to secure his European Tour card for the first time this season.
First-round leader Daniel van Tonder finished in ninth place – one shot ahead of Scotland’s Craig Howie, who had three top 10s in top amateur events in South Africa, in 2017, and finished T11th at the South African Amateur Strokeplay that same season.
The Peebles pro – who finished 34th at the European Tour Qualifying School, in November, missing out on a card by two shots – clearly relishes the continent’s conditions.
•To see the final results from Limpopo, click here.
The Challenge Tour now travels to Cape Town for the RAM Cape Town Open, which gets under way from February 6-9.