Vintage McNulty keeps cool to claim back-to-back SA Senior Open titles
Mark McNulty became the first golfer to successfully defend the SA Senior Open title as he asserted his dominance to fend off the chasing duo of Roger Wessels and Kevin Stone. His big tournament experience, sitting behind only Gary Player in number of Sunshine Tour titles won, was on full display as he signed off his final scorecard for a 71 to finish 1 shot ahead of his nearest competitor.
McNulty showed his love for the Plettenberg Bay Golf Course as he strolled through a bogey free first 36 holes to sit firmly in the lead after round 2. A shaky third round saw him give the chasing pack some hope, with Wessels and Stone making the most of the 3rd round wobble.
Wessels and McNulty both birdied the first hole but after they both par’d at the second, Wessels birdied the 3rd and a bogey from McNulty on hole four meant they were in a share for of the lead. Another bogey on five saw Wessels take the lead for the first time in the tournament but it was short-lived as Mark birdied the par 3 sixth to once again share the lead.
McNulty finished the front 9 with a Birdie to claim back the lead and a Bogey from Wessels on 11 restored the 2-shot lead he had started the day with.
While Wessels had been pushing McNulty for the first part of the day, it was Stone’s consistency that was keeping him close. Stone did briefly slip on 12 and 13, but birdied 14 to move back to 1-over. McNulty also bogeyed 13 and sat just 1 ahead of Wessels going up the fourteenth but back-to-back bogeys followed for Wessels and he slipped to 2-over, 1 behind Stone and 3 behind McNulty.
The final three Holes saw some exciting golf as Wessels pulled one back on seventeen to go up the 18th on 1-over, while Stone had dropped one to start the final hole at 2-over. Both players would need a great final hole as McNulty still held a 2 and 3 stroke lead respectively.
All three players were in the middle of the fairway off the tee. Wessels and McNulty following each other on their second shots coming up short right, while Stone pulled his second but “missed well” and was pin high left of the green. With McNulty putting his 3rd onto the green the title was all but secure until Stone chipped in for eagle to finish Even Par and meaning McNulty had two to secure the win.
He duly obliged and knocked in his second putt for a Par 5 and sign for 1-under for the tournament and his second consecutive SA Senior Open title. We can look forward to 2019, where McNulty will be back to defend his title, in a field that for the first time could include Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.
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About the Sunshine Senior Tour
The newly branded Sunshine Senior Tour, has resulted between a partnership with the SA Senior Tour and the Sunshine Tour, under a license agreement for professional members aged 50 and older in South Africa. The tour structure aims to provide a competitive tournament schedule to accommodate the membership and grow senior professional golf in SA.
In 2017, a partnership was formed with the Endangered Wildlife Trust in which a percentage of the total prize fund is donated to support a specific endangered animal in the region a tournament is held. This will continue and the Humpback Dolphin will again be the deserving recipient.
The SA Senior Open runs from Tuesday 2nd October to Friday 5th October 2018 and is supported by Bitou Municipality, Plett Tourism, Seeff Plettenberg Bay, Avis SA, Tsogo Sun, PenBev, Tsitsikamma Water, Stella Artois, Sunshine Tour, Golf RSA, Plettenberg Bay Country Club and Accelerate Sport.