Talented 28-year-old Ryan Wingrove, who modestly describes himself as no more than a weekend golfer, won Randpark’s Graduate Club Championship by a runaway seven strokes on Sunday, while also gifted Grant Labuschagne – he’s just 16 years old, became the Club Junior champion for the third straight year following a sudden-death play-off with 15-year-old Franco Roos.
Wingrove shot five-under-par 67 on Bushwillow in his morning round before producing some swashbuckling Seve Ballesteros-like escapes from the trees in his second round after lunch to shoot 71 on Firethorn for a 36-hole total of six-under-par 138 to lift the title, with Jared Botha second on the leaderboard on 145 and Chris Scheppel next best on 149.
“I’ve got a full-time job so basically I only play golf at weekends,” said Wingrove who, remarkably, sports a plus-2 handicap in spite of being very much a competitive part-timer although he does play Scratch League for the club.
“I started off the day at Bushwillow’s 10th hole by missing a putt of about four feet for par to make bogey. Then I said to my caddie Richard Leballo let’s just be patient and it was just par golf after that until I made birdies at 17 and 18 to be out in one under. Then, on my inward loop, the putts started to drop and I went on a birdie run on holes 3, 4 and 5 to sign for a 67. I hit the ball nicely all day and made some clutch up-and-downs in the afternoon. Both courses, I might add, were in phenomenal condition with the greens running beautifully true.”
He certainly did make some good par-saves. At Firethorn’s tough par4 16th he drove into the trees on the right but hit an amazing Seve-like long-iron recovery which ended up in the green’s back bunker. He then up-and-downed it from the sand to save par. At 18 he was again in the trees with his tee shot and hit his second in the rough well short and about 50m from the green. But a brilliant pitch (so much touch!) from there very nearly ended up in the bottom of the cup and again he avoided dropping a shot.
Ryan is a man with loads of talent and, having secured victory, he wasted no time in enjoying a drink or two with his faithful buddies – who had been hollering loudly every time he made a good shot on the back nine. He also paid tribute to his experienced Randpark bagman, who was a regular on the Sunshine Tour looping for the pros over the years. “Richard is a brilliant caddie. His reading of the lines was awesome today. He deserves the win as much as me.”
Ryan won last year’s top 16 Matchplay at Randpark so he is no newcomer to silverware. He has been a member here for about three years but this is his first Club Championship title. “I used to be a member at Ruimsig and in 2019 I won the Club Champs there with my Dad, Ian, my big supporter, winning the B-Division so it was a memorable double for father and son.”
In the Junior Club Championship big and tall, long-hitting Grant Labuschagne shot 71-70 for 141 to find himself tied at the top of the leaderboard after the 36-holes of regulation play alongside the much smaller Franco Roos, who at the age of 15 is one year his junior. Franco shot a brilliant 68 on Bushwillow followed up with a 73 on Firethorn. In fading light, this meant a sudden-death play-off and Grant secured victory with a par at Firethorn’s par-4 opening hole.
Young Labuschagne’s exploits are well known at Randpark. He got into golf as a seven-year-old after being exposed to the game by his father. “My Dad never pushed me. I just loved the game.” At 10 he became involved in SA Kids Golf and in the ensuing years won plenty at age-group junior level. Last year, although still under-17, he won three times in Central Gauteng Golf Union’s Under-19 tournaments, as well as finishing second in the Central Gauteng Open (Open, note, not just juniors. This was the genuine big-time in top-level amateur golf) and lifting the Central Closed title. Last year he was an integral part of the Central Gauteng team that won the Junior Interprovincial. He is one of South Africa’s top juniors and his best round has been a stunning bogey-free, seven-under-par 65 on Royal Johannesburg’s long and tough East Course where he has had a hole-in-one on the 12th hole.
Grant is big, strong and full of confidence. Loads of confidence. He is a great ball striker whose future looks to have no limits. And he was quick to praise Franco after the play-off on Sunday. “Franco had been shooting, like, 73s and 74s recently. And then he suddenly comes up with this 68 on Bushwillow! What a round!”
Ryan, Grant, Franco. These guys can play! And the Graduate and Junior Club Championships proved it.
Written by Randpark member Grant Winter
Photo: Ryan Wingrove (Graduate Champion) & Grant Labuschagne (Junior Champion) receiving their trophies from Thiruven Naidoo (Vice-Captain)