By Tony Jimenez
(Reuters) - Relief was etched all across George Coetzee's face when the South African ended an agonising sequence of 24 top-10 finishes without a win by landing his maiden European Tour victory at the Joburg Open.
The 27-year-old's three-stroke triumph at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Sunday also meant he made amends for failing to buy a birthday gift for his mother the day before.
"Today was awesome and I'm so happy to share it with everybody I love," Coetzee said on his Twitter feed after picking up the first prize of 206,050 euros ($280,600).
"I've been waiting a while and I starting doubting. I got to share it with my family and friends - it was my mum's birthday on Saturday and I wanted to do it for her as I forgot to buy her a present."
Coetzee was four shots behind joint leaders Justin Walters and Thomas Aiken at the start of the final round but came storming through the field with a closing 66 earning a 19-under-par total of 268.
The champion, however, was grateful for a sizeable dose of good fortune with four holes to go.
"You need a little bit of luck to win these things," said Coetzee. "On 15 I pulled my driver.
"That was the decider because it should have gone into the water but instead it hit a tree and bounced back into the fairway.
"You always have this plan in mind for yourself when you're coming down the stretch and it never goes the way you think it will."
Coetzee's victory lifted him from 74th to 59th in the world rankings and also booked him a ticket to the British Open at Royal Liverpool in July.
It will be the South African's third appearance in golf's oldest major.
Coetzee's best result at the British Open came when he finished 15th at Sandwich on his debut in 2011 but he is now looking to emulate fellow countryman and twice former winner Ernie Els by getting his hands on the coveted Claret Jug.
"Ernie is the reason I am here," he said. "I used to watch him on TV and I thought that's what I want to do.
"You definitely don't want to go through your career without winning a major especially the oldest and best one."
(Editing by Rex Gowar)