St Andrews-based golfer Laird Shepherd pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in Amateur Championship history to win the in the 126th final at Nairn on Saturday.
Englishman Shepherd pulled off the most incredible result to defeat Monty Scowsill from Woodbridge after being eight down after 17 holes and four down with four to play to triumph at the 38th hole.
Battling comeback left fans stunned at Nairn
Somehow, he found the courage and class to turn the tide and leave Scowsill, who had raced ahead this morning, absolutely stunned.
A steady start in the all-English final from both golfers made way for Scowsill taking control as two long putts and a chip-in took him four up after nine holes.
His domination continued and he was eight up after 17 holes. The rain began to pour down at this stage, adding to the misery for 23-year-old Shepherd.
Although Shepherd was not playing badly, Scowsill was clinical, ensuring any opportunity of a puttable hole was taken.
Winning the 18th hole was crucial for Shepherd
The one-way traffic was halted, thankfully for Shepherd, when he won his first hole at the 18th, just before the midway interval.
Little did we know at that stage what incredible drama was to unfold over the next few hours.
In the second round of the final, there were no incisive moves made at first, but gradually Shepherd made inroads and rattled off five birdies against his now nervous opponent to take the match to sudden death.
Nerves of steel sealed remarkable comeback
He held his nerve at the 38th hole to seal the most incredible recovery in front of the thrilled Nairn Golf Club members permitted to see it.
The champion will now gain exemptions to The 149th Open at Royal St George’s, the 2022 US Open and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament.
There will also be an invitation for Shepherd to play in a European Tour event.
Champion was sure there was no way back
Shepherd admitted he saw no way back, despite the encouragement from those around him when he trailed by seven holes at the break.
He said: “I was having my lunch after the first 18 holes and I thought it was over.
“I just didn’t want to lose by an embarrassing scoreline obviously. I just can’t believe it.
“Monty played so great all day. It was such a great battle.
“I can’t out into words how I feel after that comeback. Some of the biggest names in golf are on that trophy.
“I just need to thank my caddie. He was in my ear all during lunch as was my girlfriend and my dad, telling me not to give up.
“I didn’t see it happening. To win it is amazing, but to come back like that is surreal.”
Injury hampered hopes ahead of ultimate day to remember
The winner explained that he’s battled back through tough times, which makes this achievement all the sweeter.
He explained: “I felt so nervous, even on Friday night. The only time I felt okay was when I was eight down. I was thinking whether I wanted to put myself through that again.
“I’ve had a difficult few years with my injuries and there have been conversations when I have had thoughts about whether my golf was going to work out.
“I didn’t know whether I would be able to play the amount of golf I have played this week, let alone play a tournament like this and win it.”
A deflated Scowsill said: “It’s really tough to take. I was in command all the way, really. I finished poorly and Laird finished very well, to be fair to him. That’s golf.
“I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I just didn’t hit the shots when I needed to on the back nine. It happens. It was my morning, it was his afternoon.
“On the 36th hole I was trying to hit it down the left side and I just hit it a bit full and it hit the tree. It’s still been a good week and congratulations to Laird.”
Top amateurs excel in the Highlands
The riveting final was a fitting conclusion to a brilliant week of golf at host club Nairn.
Home talent Calum Scott, 17, thrilled fans by reaching the quarter-finals, which was a boost following his brother Sandy, the seventh best amateur in the world, pulling out through injury on Sunday.
There was also drama on Tuesday when Kilmacolm’s Matthew Clark, who has captained Scotland in the Men’s Home Internationals, shot a course record 62 to top the strokeplay qualifier.