Jack Bigham dug deep to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at The R&A’s Boys’ Amateur Championship and enhance his reputation as one of golf’s most exciting young talents.
The England boys’ squad player was two down with three to play in the 36-hole final at Royal Cinque Ports against Italy’s Riccardo Fantinelli.
But the Harpenden golfer refused to give up his dream, levelled the match with a gutsy birdie putt on the 36th hole and then earned the title with a par on the first extra hole.
Bigham’s name now joins that of Jose Maria Olazabal, Sergio Garcia and Matt Fitzpatrick on the famous trophy which was first played for exactly 100 years ago.
It was rich reward for Bigham who had qualified from the stroke play as top seed after rounds of 69 and 67 for an eight under par total.
He then marched through five rounds of match play with only one of those games going as far as the 16th hole.
Bigham has enjoyed an excellent year finishing third in the English Under 18 Championship, sixth at the Carris Trophy, enjoying a run to the last 16 of the Amateur Championship and making it to the quarters at the English Men’s Amateur.
Today, though, he got his hands on the silverware in what will be his last national individual event at boys’ level.
“I am over the moon, obviously,” admitted Bigham.
“I was playing great in the stroke play and just continued all the way through to the final. I was a little bit sloppy in some areas today, but I managed to get the job done.
“It is my only win and I am so happy as it was in my last junior event as well.”
Even though Bigham had look imperious in his progress to the final, the encounter with Fantinelli (pictured above) was always going to be tight.
The Italian showed at the recent Carris Trophy – when he fired a course record 63 in the first round en route to finishing third – that he had the ability to make plenty of birdies.
That made him a dangerous rival in match play and so it proved over the course of a topsy-turvy final that went all the way – and a little bit further just for good measure!
Bigham got off to a flying start with three birdies in his first six holes giving him a two-hole advantage.
By the 11th hole of the morning round it was all square and a birdie at the 12th from Fantinelli gave him a narrow lead which remained until the 18th hole when another Bigham birdie sent the duo in for lunch all square.
Fantinelli – who comes from Rome but who boards at Reed’s School in Surrey – birdied the opening hole of the afternoon round and although Bigham levelled up after the 21st hole, the Italian was ahead again two holes later.
The due then traded holes at the 25th and 26th and again at the 27th and 28th as the match see-sawed one way then the other.
When Bigham bogeyed the 33rd hole go two down with three to play it looked as if his glory run was nearing an end.
Bigham, though, dug deep taking the 16th with a par. His putt to win the 35th horsehoed out and that left him needing to win the final hole to extend the match.
Under pressure, a 15-foot birdie putt was duly rolled home and the momentum had swung finally in the Englishman’s favour.
A solid par at the first extra hole was enough to give Bigham the win which – on his overall play for the week – no-one could argue was well deserved and certainly hard earned.
“What a moment after holing that putt on 18 particularly after the horseshoe putt on 17,” added Bigham.
As well as the title and trophy, Bigham has earned exemptions into next year’s Amateur Championship, final qualifying for The 150th Open Championship at St Andrews and an invite to the US Junior Amateur.
Bigham’s Victory Trail
- R1 stroke play: 69 (-3)
- R2 stroke play: 67 (-5)
- Round of 64: Wins 5&3 v Morris Schiefner
- Round of 32: Wins 7&5 v Alex Turlik
- Round of 16: Wins 5&3 v Kaito Redl
- Quarter final: Wins 3&2 v Cameron Adam
- Semi-final: Wins 6&5 v Daniel Bullen
- Final: Wins on 37th hole v Riccardo Fantinelli
Photography credit: The R&A/Leaderboard