Craigielaw’s Grant Forrest won the battle of the Scots to beat Bradley Neil from Blairgowrie at the first extra hole and claim the prestigious St Andrews Links Trophy today.
On a superb day for Scottish amateur golf, the home pair put in excellent performances over the hallowed Old Course before Forrest edged out his SGU National Men’s Squad team-mate on the 1st green with a fine 25 foot birdie putt.
“Walking down the 18th at the Old Course is always special, to win against this international field is really special,” said Grant, 20.
Kilmarnock Barassie’s Jack McDonald and Jamie Savage (Cawder) also secured top-10 finishes, while Kilmacolm’s Matt Clark shared 15th spot after a fine week for the Scots at the renowned 72-hole stroke play event.
The World Amateur Golf Rankings rates the St Andrews Links Trophy as one of the strongest amateur tournaments in the world, based on strength of field, and it is arguably one of the strongest outside the Amateur Championship in the UK.
Forrest becomes 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, Oliver Fisher, Lloyd Saltman, Jamie McLeary, Steven O’Hara, Craig Watson and Barclay Howard.
Both he and Neil posted nine-under-par scores in the breezy conditions, with Forrest making a birdie at the famous 18th from the Valley of Sin to force the play-off. “My heart was pounding over the birdie putt on 18,” said Forrest, who also brilliantly chipped in from 30 yards for an eagle 2 in the third round at 18. “It was a little bit right to left. I was delighted when it went in.”
Neil carded a closing 68 while Forrest, the overnight leader, looked to have stumbled before recovering to score 71. The duo finished a stroke clear of four players on eight under, Thomas Rowland, Daniel Wasteney, Federico Zucchetti and Paul Howard.
McDonald, the Stirling University pure maths student, raced to three-under at the turn to launch himself into contention but bogeys at the 13th and 17th left him two back.
After Savage’s recent win at the Irish Open Stroke Play, the first Scot to win a premier 72-hole stroke play event on the GB&I calendar since 2009, Forrest has quickly followed him to add to the feelgood factor around Scottish amateur golf at present.
Forrest, the University of San Diego student, has also added to his three success on the US college circuit last season, and builds on his 2012 Scottish Amateur triumph at Royal Dornoch, as well as his 2010 Scottish Boys title.
“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’ve 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.”
Neil, 18, has 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.
Both he and Forrest are set for leaps up the World Amateur Golf Ranking, with Forrest sure to move well into the top 50 as the nation’s highest-ranked amateur.
Photos: Kenny Smith