The 2017 3e Actuaries Open reached a nail biting conclusion in both the men’s and ladies’ side of the prestigious sub-Saharan Africa tournament as Peter Karmis and Elin Arvidsson each secured victory in the US$250,000 event in Mongomo.

A torrential downpour of rain halted play with over half of Saturday’s third round still remaining meaning the players had to leave the luxurious comfort of the Grand Djibloho hotel at 5.45am on Sunday morning to play their remaining holes.

Thick fog meant a further delay to proceedings and when the third round was finally completed a decision was made, after much debate and conjecture, to cut the tournament to 54 holes. With live on course scoring in use for the first time, it looked like a play-off was on the cards for both men and ladies – with Sunshine Tour pair Ben Follett-Smith and Karmis tied on 9-under and Sophie Walker and Chloe Leurquin tied at 2-under.

But, with the girls already warming up for their play-off on the driving range, there was a dramatic twist in the tale when it was revealed that the second-round score of Sweden’s Arvidsson had been incorrectly inputted into scoring system after Friday’s second round and, with the scorecards re-checked, she was actually two shots better off than the leaderboard was showing. The US-based player, who plays on the LPGA development, Symetra Tour, was therefore crowned ladies champion at 3-under par 213.

“It’s great, it’s been such a good week,” said the shocked but delighted Arvidsson. “It’s been really fun to be here – I’ve never been here before and to come off the golf course not knowing if you’ve won and then standing in the clubhouse waiting to find out and finally realising you’re the winner – it’s an incredible feeling.

“Yesterday I felt like I was hitting the ball pretty well and I was minus two when we finished for the day. Then we came back out today and it was hard because we had a fog delay and we were standing around waiting. But I just told myself that I was going to do the best I could. I started the day with a bogey and my body started to feel tired. But I started to scramble it together, rolled a couple of putts and just played solid – it wasn’t like I made a ton of putts, I just made a couple of good up and downs and made some short putts.”

Still relatively new to professional golf, the 25-year-old Texas Tech University graduate, who received a US$30,000 winner’s cheque, declared the event “by far the biggest thing she’s ever won”.

“There are girls out here who play on the LPGA and high up on the LET and we’ve got girls who have played in the Solheim Cup,” she said. “Playing on the LPGA and in the Soheim Cup are dreams of mine so being able to come here and play on the same golf course as them, under the same conditions as them, and come out on top, is great for my game.”

The crowds at the Presidential Golf Course were not to be denied their play-off and with the scorecard check revealing that the showdown between Karmis and Follett-Smith was still on, it was back to the ninth tee to play one of the most difficult holes on the course again.

Both players found a good spot on the fairway with their tee shots and Karmis, a two-time winner on the Sunshine Tour this season, used all of his experience, taking the sensible route and laying up. But disaster struck for the younger Follett-Smith when he went for the green with his second shot, opting to try to carry the water with a fairway wood and watching in despair has his ball splashed into the hazard, leaving Karmis to two-putt for par to claim the US$30,000 men’s first prize.

“I had a strategy for the hole,” he said. “My strategy was to lay up and then hit a wedge shot close – that was basically my plan. What Ben did was really irrelevant for me but obviously it took the pressure off me when he knocked it in the water but I still had to two putt. He still had a chance to make par so I just had to stick to my game plan and do as well as I could.

“It’s an awesome prize, so I’m really pleased.”

Overnight leader Follett-Smith, who has only been a professional since September, said: “I had a good week and played very well. Obviously towards the end I let it slip. Today on 10 – I hit a bad shot and then combined it with another bad shot and made double there which cost me. A three putt on 17 cost me too. Peter had a good day today, he shot six under and caught up the three shots I was ahead. I shot four under – I still played good and got it round like I needed to. I’m happy that I didn’t give it away – obviously in the play-off I kind of did. I didn’t hit the best second shot and hit it in the water. I made six from there so I kind of gave it to him in the play-off but other than that, I had a good week.”

The 2017 3e Actuaries proved to be the biggest and best yet and with an increasingly high-class field, the event is well on its way to achieving its aim of being known as sub-Saharan Africa’s ‘Major’. Tournament Host Olawale Opanyinka said:

“It’s been a wonderful week of golf full of drama – good drama. Our aim for next year is to keep the field to around 100 players but to keep building the quality of players. This event is the biggest African event outside the European Tour and one day we hope that the players who do well here will receive invites to play in other big events around the world.”

The Mongomo showpiece has grown at a phenomenal rate in just five years of existence. Watch this space for the next chapter in its captivating story.

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