As MJ Viljoen walked to sign his scorecard, he thought he had finished the Sun Fish River Sun Challenge on 12-under par. In fact, he had made birdie on 16 which gave him 13-under and a one-stroke victory.

The 22-year-old from Bloemfontein fired a superb closing round of seven-under-par 65 to overcome a four-stroke deficit on the overnight lead, and he edged out Andre Nel, Omar Sandys and Justin Harding for the victory after they all finished on 12-under.

“I forgot about the birdie on 16,” said Viljoen, “but when I was going over my scorecard in score-recording, I remembered.”

The moment of forgetfulness was probably induced by the solitary bogey on his card, which came on 17. “I had a terrible lie – almost in a divot – off the fairway, and I duffed my second,” he said. “Then I hit a good chip which hit the pin and shot off 30 feet to the right of the hole. I just decided to take my two putts and move off to the 18th.”

He thought he’d have to make birdie on 18 to cement his spot on top of the leaderboard, and he had a good run at it with a 12-footer. But the ball just missed on the left of the hole, and he made par.

In the end, that was enough to give him his maiden professional victory in his third year on the Sunshine Tour. “I’m delighted with the win,” he said. “I’m excited about the year ahead. My goal this year was to win a tournament, to get exemption. I have it now, and there are a couple of tournaments that I’m looking forward to playing and see where that takes me.”

He went about his work in the final round without feeling any kind of pressure to set a target for overnight leader Wallie Coetsee to chase. “When I teed off, I didn’t really chase anything,” said Viljoen. “I saw the guys who were leading were within reach and I didn’t need to chase them. I just played golf, and in the end I won.”

He rode to victory on the back of some solid, but not spectacular performances – a pair of top 20s in the previous two Sunshine Tour events. “Everything was working well this week,” he said. “I didn’t make many putts in the first two rounds. I was rolling it pretty nicely, so I knew that if I kept doing that, some of them were going to go in. I just stayed patient and everything came together nicely.”

Viljoen is something of a freewheeling character, so the tournaments ahead could produce some more fireworks. “It’s going to be much easier playing in future,” he said. “Just having the monkey off my back is going to make it easier. There are no worries about anything, so winning has been a good learning experience for me.”

FINAL SCORES

203 - MJ Viljoen 69 69 65

204 - Andre Nel 72 67 65, Omar Sandys 68 69 67, Justin Harding 68 69 67

205 - Neil Schietekat 68 69 68, Wallie Coetsee 68 66 71

206 - Chris Cannon 70 71 65, Mark Williams 70 70 66, Christiaan Bezuidenhout 69 69 68

207 - Jared Harvey 71 72 64, Vaughn Groenewald 69 71 67, Titch Moore 69 67 71, Jonathan Agren 68 67 72

208 - Tyrone Ferreira 71 69 68, Ulrich van den Berg 68 72 68, Ryan Tipping 72 67 69, Colin Nel 69 70 69, Andrew Curlewis 71 67 70

210 - Zack Byrd 69 73 68, Breyten Meyer 68 72 70, Jaco Prinsloo 68 72 70, Scott Campbell 70 70 70, Chris Swanepoel 69 71 70, Doug McGuigan 69 71 70, Merrick Bremner 69 67 74

211 - JJ Senekal 69 70 72

212 - Matias Calderon 69 68 75

213 - Lindani Ndwandwe 72 71 70, Jean-Paul Strydom 68 75 70, Ruan de Smidt 71 72 70, Lyle Rowe 70 73 70

214 - James Kamte 71 72 71, Antonio Rosado 70 72 72, Jake Redman 70 72 72

215 - Jason Smith 70 73 72, Bryandrew Roelofsz 70 73 72, Andre De Decker 66 76 73

216 - Martin Rohwer 72 71 73

217 - Ruan Huysamen 68 75 74

220 - Desne Van Den Bergh 72 71 77