It all came down to the very last hole as 27-year-old Chris Scheppel edged out 52-year-old Sean Quigley by a single stroke to win, on a two-under-par 142, what can only be described as a 2023 men’s Club Championship thriller of note on Sunday.
In the Women’s Championship Randpark’s 21-year-old Ernie Els Foundation member, hot-shot Cara Ford, took the club title for an impressive third time, her 148 aggregate a runaway 12 shots ahead of second-placed Lauren Clough.
For the men the superbly manicured Firethorn course was playing unusually tough for the closing stages of the second and final round as a chilly late-afternoon Sunday wind meant co-leaders Scheppel and Quigley were hitting against the breeze at holes 16, 17 and 18 – none of which are easy holes even when it’s dead calm. Both were two-under for the tournament at this stage but Scheppel hit what he will surely remember as one of the shots of his life at the demanding 428m par-4 16th, a nine-iron from the middle of the fairway (following a really huge drive) to two feet of the cup. In went the putt for birdie and he was now three under. Quigley, playing in the group ahead of him, had bravely holed a testing six-footer for par to remain at two-under.
Sean then parred the treacherous par-3 17th while Chris just missed the green there and chipped and two-putted to drop a shot. So now it was all square and one to play. With fading light, Sean was short of the green in two at the 18th before chipping and just missing his par putt by a fraction. Chris then hit two superb shots onto the “dance floor” and two putted for victory at this par-4, a back-breaking 464m off the yellow tips.
“That birdie at 16 was key,” said Scheppel after being doused from head to foot with bubbly courtesy of his buddy Ryan Wingrove who last month had won Randpark’s Graduate Club Championship. “I had a great start to the club champs on Saturday on Bushwillow and was four under at one stage but I dropped shots at the end of the round to sign for a 71.”
0n Sunday his 71 on Firethorn was a pretty good score under the circumstances and his 142 total saw him pip Sean (72-71 for 143) by one. And, just a reminder to all of us, this wonderful game of golf can be played with great skill by a whole range of ages as Chris, 27, and Sean, 52, almost twice his age, proved.
Chris Scheppel had aspirations for a career in tennis in his younger days and represented Central Gauteng at provincial level before switching to golf. Just prior to Covid he was thinking about turning pro. Maybe he still will. In the meantime, his Randpark clubmate Conner Mackenzie, who won last year’s Club Championship, did join the paid ranks, earned his tour card at Q-School, and comfortably made the cut, incidentally, in last week’s Zimbabwe Open. “Conner told me to win this year’s club champs and so to have just done so is pretty satisfying,” said a smiling Chris, a two-time Randpark Graduate Club Champion before now going one better and annexing the “big one”.
Cara Ford said one of the keys to winning this year’s women’s Club Championship was her ability to get up and down time and again with a chip and a putt to save par. The diminutive 21-year-old is a rich talent, currently studying for a PGA Diploma through GETS Golf right here at Randpark. “My main goal is to turn pro and play on tour and I’m already doing that as an amateur. But I really want to make it on tour as a professional. I’m sure I will but having a PGA Diploma also ensures I’ll be able to stay in the golf industry whatever happens. As for today, thanks to all who got me to where I am in golf, including my kick-ass parents!”
Both Scheppel and Ford, as well as men’s Randpark Club Captain Arthur Heinrich, who entertained us all as the man up on stage handing out the prizes, paid tribute to both Chief Greenkeeper and Course Superintendent Roger Innes for the superb condition in which we currently find both Firethorn and Bushwillow. We as members are privileged to play on such exceptionally conditioned layouts.
“The Club Championships are the biggest event of the year and I’d like to say a thank you to every one of the 350 players who took part and made it a special weekend,” said Arthur. Indeed it was a weekend of golf to remember.
A final word. Randpark veteran golfing legend and former South African rugby star Schalk Naude turned 65 on Sunday. The captain of the Central Gauteng team which finished second in the recent South African Senior Interprovincial at San Lameer, this guy can – seriously – still play the game. He shot 149 in the Veterans Division, to finish third on Sunday behind Quigley on 143 and Johann Nel on 148. Well done Schalk but, you know, he doesn’t like third. Watch this space.
Written by Randpark member Grant Winter.
To view the 2023 Club Championship Results please click the links below: