A week after capturing his first European Tour title, 23-year-old Branden Grace beat two of his boyhood heroes in a play-off for the Volvo Golf Champions title at The Links at Fancourt.
Grace, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen had finished tied for the lead on a 12-under-par 280 total. The local hero birdied the first playoff hole – the par-five 18th – to claim his second consecutive victory on the European Tour.
“It’s awesome. It’s been amazing, and it’s great to sit here again as I did at the Joburg Open,” said Grace, who had the chance to win this ‘tournament of champions’ during regulation play, but missed the three-foot putt for birdie at the 18th that would have secured him victory. “You know you’ve got a three-footer and if you make it you’re a hero. I didn’t think I hit a bad putt, to be honest. But the confidence from my first win played an important role.”
“I read some articles before the final round and saw that there were seven players with 13 Majors chasing me. That was a big field behind me, so I just stuck to what I was doing. It’s been a dream to play here and to win a tournament of the calibre of the Volvo Golf Champions,” said Grace.
It was a victory made all that more memorable considering Grace had initially been asked to play as a marker in the 35-man field, before his victory in the Joburg Open saw him qualify automatically for the champions-only tournament. “I guess I would’ve definitely come in any case. But fortunately I won and got myself in, and managed to finish it in the end,” said Grace.
It was a thrilling final round in which the lead changed several times. Els set the mark in the clubhouse at 12-under-par with a sublime round of 67, including a birdie at the last. Goosen birdied three of the final four holes to also finish on 12-under with a 70. That left Grace and Nicolas Colsaerts out on the course. Both arrived on the 18th, also on 12-under-par. Colsaerts hit a wayward drive and eventually missed a four-foot putt for par to stay in the playoff, instead finishing on 11-under with a 72.
Grace may have missed the chance to claim victory on the 72nd hole, but made no mistakes in the playoff. “It was unbelievable to stand on the tee with Ernie and Retief. I was very calm though. It’s one of those awesome things to know I’ve beaten two of my idols in a playoff.”
But the golf was certainly not the only draw card during the tournament days.
The Public Village was a very popular stop and the public deck was well supported. With the golf broadcast on the massive screen, spectators enjoyed the opportunity to put their feet up. The Kids Zone, with its track and colourful pedal cars and trucks, was a major hit with parents and toddlers alike, while the Volvo Excavator Challenge drew old and young who tried to sink that winning putt.
Spectators also enjoyed testing the latest equipment on offer at the practice nets and having their swings analysed by the pros while the car enthusiasts didn’t miss the opportunity to test Volvo’s innovative brake technology at the Pedestrian Detection Test Drive.
And, after four exciting days that offered something for everyone, a popular Grace lifted the Volvo Golf Champions trophy to thunderous applause and cheers.
Volvo and Golf in SA
According to Michelle Naudé – Marketing Director of Volvo Car South Africa: “Volvo is in golf in South Africa because of the platform it offers with the right target market – to showcase our products, to interact with owners and potential owners, and to raise the Volvo brand awareness and purchase consideration. We are involved on many levels – from being a transport and display partner at premium tournaments to the furtherance of golf at junior level through the Nomads, and not to forget, we are the official vehicle partner of the PGA of SA. Kicking off the year with a fantastic tournament like the Volvo Golf Champions lifts our presence in golf to an enviable high standard.”
About the Volvo Golf Champions
It would be difficult to imagine an event that encompasses a wider spectrum of golf – professional and amateur, individual and team, formal and informal, players from all over the world – than the week of the Volvo Golf Champions and the Volvo World Golf Challenge which has just finished at the fabulous Fancourt Estate in Western Cape, South Africa.
This unique and extensive mix of events is an unparalleled opportunity for Volvo to interact with customers and prospects. Thanks to massive media coverage, Volvo also gets to showcase the brand including vehicles on display on site.
The professional event – the Volvo Golf Champions – is a world-class tournament open only to last year’s European Tour winners and players with at least ten victories in their career.
The event offers important marketing and relationship management opportunities – it is preceded by the exclusive Pro-Am and followed with ‘After the Champions’ where customers and stakeholders get to play the stunning Links Course the day after the event with the course set up in the same way.
The Volvo Golf Champions came to a thrilling climax on Sunday, attracting thousands of spectators to the event, when the leading 11 finishers contained no fewer than 8 Major winners. Screened live on television across the globe to a potential worldwide audience of hundreds of millions of people, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen were joined by emerging star Brandon Grace in a play-off. Playing the last hole in sudden-death, Grace managed to win and claimed the winners’ cheque of €350,000.
In parallel, the amateur competition – the World Final of the Volvo World Golf Challenge – was the culmination of hundreds of qualifying competitions held in more than 25 countries and attracting in excess of 50,000 enthusiastic club golfers. The 55 finalists played two rounds and Italian Johannes Zelger held his nerve to win by two shots from Austrian Henning Frech, with young Swede Mikael Hedberg in third. An additional excitement which is attracting ever-increasing interest is that the following day, the top-finishers each got the chance to take part in ‘Playing With The Pros’, live on television on the European Tour.
South African hero Retief Goosen and English star Lee Slattery partnered Volvo-customer and amateur Mark Vandenberghe from the UK to victory. The Pros were excited about each winning a Volvo V60, whilst Mark had the time of his life, a day he will never forget.
This unique combination of the amateurs joining the pros for one round during their tournament has been a driving force in attracting club golfers from all over the world into playing in Volvo events