Scots amateurs end nation’s title drought in brilliant style
SCOTTISH amateur golf has experienced a mini revival of late after going five years without a win in a 72-hole amateur strokeplay title on the Great Britain and Ireland circuit.
Cawder’s Jamie Savage was the first to break down the barrier by winning the Irish Amateur Strokeplay crown, before Grant Forrest followed him into the winner’s circle by taking the title at the St Andrews Links Trophy.
Savage became the first Scotsman to lift the Irish title since Gavin Dear in 2009 and, in the process, he also became the first Scot to win a premier 72-hole strokeplay event since Dear.
The 19-year-old, who was crowned East of Scotland champion last year, finished two shots clear of a quartet of players that included Irish Close champion Cormac Sharvin and the long-time leader Gary McDermott from Carton House.
Coached by his father, Stewart, the professional at Dalmuir GC, Savage fired a final round of 71 that featured an impressive level-par back-nine to give the Scot his first major international win.
“I played nicely all week and just glad that I pulled it off, especially after being beaten in a play-off a couple of weeks previously in the Battle Trophy,” said Savage, who came from behind on the final day to take the title.
“I was only the three behind at the start of the day and I had a number in my head, thought if I could get under par, thought I would have a chance. Any score under par was good.”
Dunbar’s Alexander Culverwell, the reigning Scottish Amateur champion, was among the other Scots that fared well in at the Royal Dublin Club as he finished in 11th place, while Royal Aberdeen’s Nick MacAndrew, who defeated Savage to win the Battle Trophy at Crail, also finished inside the top-20.
As the saying goes, you wait for one and another follows soon after, and that was exactly the case as less than a month after Savage won the biggest title of his career, Craigielaw’s Grant Forrest did likewise by holding off the challenge of national squad teammate Bradley Neil to claim the prestigious St Andrews Links Trophy.
The Scots duo both finished with scores of nine-under-par in breezy conditions at the Old Course after Forrest holed his birdie putt at the famous 18th from the Valley of Sin to force a play-off.
Forrest then went on to edge out his SGU National Men’s Squad teammate on the 19th hole by holing his birdie putt from 25-feet to take what was the biggest title of his amateur career so far.
“Walking down the 18th at the Old Course is always special, to win against this international field is really special,” said Forrest.
The 20-year-old became the first Scotsman to win the event since Carnoustie’s Kier McNicoll in 2008 and joins a roll of honour that also includes Justin Rose, Tom Lewis and Lloyd Saltman.
“My heart was pounding over the birdie putt on 18,” he added. “It was a little bit right to left. I was delighted when it went in.”
Neil’s superb closing round of 68 looked to be enough to win him the title, only to see overnight leader Forrest bounce back from an early stumble to recover and shoot 71.
The win added to what has been a successful 12 months for Forrest, who is a student at the University of San Diego, as he won three tournaments on the US college circuit last season.
“Winning the Scottish Amateur was big for me, but I think because of the strength of the field here this has to be the best,” he added. “I’d only been back from the US for two weeks and I thought I would take a little more time to acclimatise, but it’s great to win back at home.”
Runner-up Neil continued his own fine season, having impressed in South Africa on the SGU winter performance programme, playing his part in Scotland’s European Nations Cup success at Sotogrande and finishing third at the Lytham Trophy. He will be looking to get his hands on one of the major amateur titles in the near future.
It was also a good week for other Scots competing at St Andrews, with Jack McDonald (Kilmarnock Barassie) and Jamie Savage (Cawder) also securing top-10 finishes, while Kilmacolm’s Matt Clark shared 15th spot resulting in a really good week for the home players at the renowned 72-hole strokeplay event.