Despite a nervous final round of 75, Harry Bigham won the Reid Trophy in front of a large and enthusiastic gallery in the Staffordshire sunshine at Enville.
The 14 year old from the Redbourn club in Hertfordshire finished on three under par 213, three strokes clear of his playing partners, Tadeas Tetak from Slovakia and Thomas Boulanger from France.
Bigham (image copyright Leaderboard Photography) was the only player on the leaderboard in red figures and he deserved his victory after leading from start to finish. “I wasn’t expecting to win,” he said. “I came here just hoping to finish in the top ten but this has surpassed my expectations.
“I didn’t play well in the final round. After two under par rounds, I wasn’t happy with today’s performance. I wasn’t nervous when I teed off and I felt confident after the first two rounds. But when I saw the crowds today I got a bit twitchy.”
That was underlined when he came home in 40 strokes without a single birdie. But he had a cushion of four shots at one stage on the back nine and only a complete disaster would have denied him the title.
Nerves also played a part with Bigham’s mother Clare. She refused to watch his round, only departing the comfort of the clubhouse to witness his final putt when she was assured he would win.
Bigham began the day on six under, four clear of Boulanger and five ahead of Tetak. He went out in 35 to go five in front on seven under and despite showing maturity beyond his tender years; his play began to falter a little on the homeward stretch.
A dropped shot at ten was followed by three putts at 12. Fortunately for him, his closest rivals were finding things just as difficult and were unable to assert pressure as they were dropping shots themselves.
With three hole to play, Bigham was still four clear but he skied his three-wood tee shot at the 208-yard 16th which cleared the lake but came up short and led to another dropped shot.
He got up-and-down superbly from left of the green at 17 then there was more drama at the par-five last.
Taking an iron off the tee, he left himself a lot to do. His second shot finished on a mound and from there he pulled his approach into sand, his ball striking a rake and finishing just under the lip. He could afford a double bogey and still win and when he came out long, two putts for another bogey was enough to see him home.
“I knew the situation and that I had shots in hand,” Bigham added. “I knew a double bogey would be O.K. but I played rubbish on the back nine.”
We shall hear more of Bigham in the years to come as we will Tetak, who finished with 73, and Boulanger, who returned a closing 74.
Ireland’s Sean Enright posted the lowest round of the day, 68 to finish fourth on 217, one over par, while Charlie Daughtrey from Rotherham was fifth on 220 after a 71.
What made Bigham’s victory all the more rewarding was that he was playing off a handicap of four when there were several lads off scratch in the field.
He now gets automatic entry into next year’s English Boys under 16 Championship for the McGregor Trophy along with the other leading five players.