It took two of the most memorable final-hole putts in the history of the Gary Player Invitational presented by Coca-Cola for French LPGA Tour star Celine Herbin and her team, including Irish singer Brian McFadden, to claim a thrilling victory in this charity tournament on Sunday.
Starting the final round six shots off the lead, Herbin and her team of McFadden and businessmen Doug Jackson and Daryl Bernhart produced an inspired performance that saw them win by a single shot on 36 under par at The Lost City Golf Club.
But it took two big putts on the final hole to force the team of host Gary Player – who was hunting a hat-trick of titles in this tournament – football star Andy Cole and businessmen Kelvin Balogun and Anthony Leeming into second place.
Jackson was first to putt on the par-five 18th and holed a magnificent 25-footer for birdie. Then it was the turn of Herbin, who holed a 30-footer for eagle. And the man cheering the loudest was McFadden, who finally claimed the famous baobab trophy that he has spent the previous three visits to this tournament chasing.
‘It’s overwhelming,’ said a delighted McFadden, who a year ago watched close friend and fellow Irish performer Ronan Keating win the title.
‘There have been years here where we’ve been close going into the final round and thinking we have a chance of winning. But this year we were second last and didn’t really think we had a chance. So, to go out and shoot 25 under today as a team is just incredible. I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life. I’m buzzing. Absolutely buzzing. Finally I’ve got that trophy to take back to Ireland.’
As team captain, Herbin was equally delighted with their performance and of her own victory on debut in this event. ‘I just told them to enjoy the final day. They were so focused and they really wanted to win. We had a great dynamic. But we laughed a lot over these two days as well.’
Jackson celebrated a milestone of his own in this event as he claimed his fourth team victory in the Gary Player Invitational presented by Coca-Cola.
‘I’ve never experienced a finish like that. That last putt was an inch outside right, my caddie picked the line superbly – and it dropped. It was unbelievable. Then Celine rammed her eagle putt in. It was crazy. We just about dived into the pond,’ he said.
This was the final tournament on the global Gary Player Invitational series, and it ended on a high note with more than R3-million raised for the two South African charities of Wings and Wishes and the Wildlands Conservation Trust.
‘The most important aspect of this tournament is the charity element,’ said Herbin.
‘I feel honoured to be a part of this Gary Player Invitational family and to have helped in my own way.’
Final scores from the Gary Player Invitational presented by Coca-Cola:
-36 Celine Herbin, Brian McFadden, Doug Jackson, Daryl Bernhart
-35 Gary Player, Andy Cole, Kelvin Balogun, Anthony Leeming
-34 Paula Reto, Butch James, Daniel Gavagnin, Phil Grindrod
-31 Haydn Porteous, Roland Schoeman, Marco Saviozzi, Laurent Girouille
-23 Darren Clarke, John Smit, Gideon du Plessis, David Woollan
-15 Michael Campbell, Jimmy Tau, Stefanie Zinser, Steve Elford
Photo: Irish singer Brian McFadden (centre) celebrates his team’s victory in the 2016 Gary Player Invitational