World No 1,397 Dan Bradbury seals feelgood victory at Joburg Open

‘Nowhere man’ and world No 1,397 Dan Bradbury claims first title at Joburg Open - Johan Rynners/Getty Images
‘Nowhere man’ and world No 1,397 Dan Bradbury claims first title at Joburg Open - Johan Rynners/Getty Images

No status, no sponsor and seemingly nowhere to play... Yorkshireman Dan Bradbury, ranked 1,397 in the world, tossed all of those concerns out of the clubhouse window by stunning the game with a maiden win on the European Tour.

Having turned professional in the summer, Bradbury was teeing it up in only his third event on his home circuit – now known as the DP World Tour – and was stunned to receive an invite to the Joburg Open. But the 23-year-old from Wakefield Golf Club more than repaid the faith of the organisers by completing a remarkable, wire-to-wire, three-stroke win over Finn Sami Valimaki.

The 2022 season finished only the previous Sunday and this, rather ludicrously, was billed as the start of the “2023” version, yet it could easily prove the feelgood story of the burgeoning campaign.

Bradbury was appropriately gobsmacked, especially as his breakthrough also ensured a berth at next year’s Open Championship at Hoylake. “I don’t know what to say other than this is completely life-changing,” he said after his 67 for a 21-under total at Houghton Golf Club. “I got nowhere in Q-school, not even past the first stage, and without this I would have nowhere to play. But now, in the space of a week, I have a card on the DP World Tour. Incredible! It’s just so much pressure taken off my back.”

The two-year exemption is probably worth even more to Bradbury than the £135,000 first prize, particularly as the Tour now guarantees its members £140,000 a year so long as they play 15 events.

“Hopefully I make the most of it,” Bradbury said. “I brought my mum [Sandra] because her boss said she could take the week off, but my dad had to stay home to look after my sister’s dogs. I thought it would only be a week away, but now I’m in next week [the South African Open] and I haven’t any clothes left. These are good problems to have.”

Bradbury’s progression to this point has been intriguing. He accepted a scholarship at an unfashionable university in Tennessee (from where he achieved the equivalent of a first-class degree) but then broke so many records he was lured to Florida State, one of the top programmes in the US.

He has been largely off the radar in his own country. No longer.

There was also the finale of another DP World Tour event – the Australian PGA at Royal Queensland, which is co-sanctioned with the Australian Tour. World No 3 Cameron Smith won the title for the third time. Smith became the second LIV player to triumph on Tour, after Spaniard Adrián Otaegui’s win at Valderrama two months ago. “I didn’t think I had it in me,” he said. “It’s awesome.”