Gary Hurley’s first week back in competitive mode didn’t exactly end as he’d hoped, as the Waterford man fired a closing 73 to finish on -11, well adrift of Wales’ Rhys Enoch who took Challenge Tour win number two at the SDC Open in South Africa.
A birdie at the third got Hurley into red figures for the day, but the seventh has been his Achilles heel all week, and he made a double-bogey – his second of the week on the hole – to bring his weekly tally to +5 on the par-4. A birdie on the 10th got him back to level, but a frustrating day ended on a frustrating note as his ball got stuck in a tree on the last, leading to a bogey and a one-over 73 after three successive 68s in rounds one to three.
“Yeah, it was good,” Hurley said of the week in general, “a lot of good stuff out there in fairness. I didn’t have my best today, up and down all day, and got stuck in a tree there on 18. I hit it in the storm before they blew the horn, but yeah, all in all it was good. I fought hard today.”
Enoch produced a faultless final round to secure a two stroke victory in the opening event of the 2024 Road to Mallorca.
The Welshman carded a fourth successive six under par round of 66 to reach 24 under par for the week and ensure he finished two strokes clear of South African duo Deon Germishuys and Martin Rohwer.
Enoch, who becomes a two-time Challenge Tour winner and secures a first triumph since winning on the Sunshine Tour in 2021, was delighted to return to the winner’s circle in South Africa.
“I feel relief weirdly, I don’t know why,” he said. “It’s been three years since I last won and I think once six months goes past after you win, you start thinking ‘when am I going to win again’.
“Especially after the year I had last year, I’m just super happy to be playing the golf I know I can play. To win here is a wonderful bonus.
“To start the year and get on top of the Challenge Tour and also get my full status on the Sunshine Tour really changes things and helps me out.”
Enoch started the day one stroke off the lead but made three successive birdies on his opening three holes to move into the outright lead. Another birdie at eight followed and at the turn he led by three.
The 35-year-old bogeyed the 11th but three gains in his next four holes saw him extend his lead once again. A dropped shot at 17 reduced his lead to one shot but a birdie at the par five 18th made sure of victory.
Enoch, who secured playing status on the DP World Tour at Qualifying School last year, was delighted with how he held his nerve over the final 36 holes.
“I was significantly better under pressure today than I have been before which is really the whole goal of what I’m trying to achieve,” he added. “I felt in control over the back nine yesterday and with how I played today.
“I also wouldn’t have been able to shoot two 66s in the first two rounds the way I was playing previously. It shows me that my game is in a place I want it to be.
“I was pleased with how consistently I played throughout, and how I controlled myself which is probably what I’m most happy with. I’m just looking forward to getting stuck in again next week and starting from scratch.”