Sam Bairstow admitted the jolt of seeing his lead whittled down to two shots with three holes to play gave him the extra spur needed to push on and win the 2021 Brabazon Trophy.
The Yorkshireman played stunning golf all week at Ganton Golf Club to deservedly win the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship with a total of -11 (273).
This was achieved thanks to an opening round of 66 and three consecutive scores of 69.
Bairstow, though, had to fight off a late charge from Zach Chegwidden to win by two shots.
Chegwidden’s seven under par final round of 64 thrilled the galleries and teed up an exciting finish to four days of tough competition.
Bairstow started the final round – delayed by half an hour due to 54mm of rain falling on the Vale of Pickering overnight – with a five-shot lead over Kent’s Josh Bristow.
Five holes into his final round the England international had stretched that lead to six thanks in part to a six-foot birdie putt at three.
By the seventh hole, Essex’s Chegwidden had suddenly appeared in Bairstow’s rear-view mirror after three birdies in a lightning start to his round took him to within three shots of the lead.
And as the duo hit the back-nine – with Chegwidden two groups ahead of Bairstow – it got even closer.
Birdies at 12, 13 and 14 put the Orsett golfer firmly in the mix just two shots behind Bairstow.
The final stretch of holes at Ganton are renowned as some of the toughest in the country – even without the pressure of one of golf’s most prestigious amateur titles on the line.
Chegwidden and Bairstow both parred the last four holes which gave Bairstow a two-shot winning margin – but it was closer than the bare facts suggest.
On 16, Chegwidden’s birdie putt from 40-feet stopped agonisingly on the edge of the cup.
And on 17, Bairstow had to hole a slippery ten-foot put down the slope for par to give him the luxury of playing 18 without too many nerves.
After nailing the win – popularly received by a large number of fellow players who waited around to see Bairstow win the title – the champion said: “If you’d have given me two under par for the round before it started, I’d have thought I’d win by five or six.
“I don’t look at leaderboards but I saw one at 15 and I noticed Zach was at nine under.
“It probably helped me as I knew I had to hit proper golf shots and not just feed my way round the golf course.
“I was happy to par the last three and get it done.
“It means a lot – I’ve been feeling like a win has been coming this year. To do it in my last big event feels really good.”
Referring to the clutch par putt he holed on the penultimate hole, Bairstow said: “I thought if I holed it would give me a bigger cushion going down the last. I didn’t want to be going down there having to make par.
“When I saw it turn in and drop, it wasn’t done, but it felt pretty near.”
Cheered on by friends and family from Sheffield and his home club of Hallowes, Bairstow admitted the win carried added significance.
He said: “It’s very special – especially in Yorkshire. I had a lot of people out there supporting me which was nice.
“I managed to close it out in the last few holes.”
The win comes near the end of an amazing summer for Bairstow who qualified for The Open at Royal St George’s.
He added: “I wasn’t as nervous today as I was on the first tee at The Open but I still definitely felt it down the last few.
“That (playing The Open) helped me and I hit the shots when I needed to.”
And on being so well received as a champion by his peers, Bairstow said: “Out here at the top of the amateur game in the UK everyone gets on.
“It’s a good environment to play in. Everyone can win and it’s good to play against people who you can also beat.”
There was some consolation for Chegwidden – whose final round of 64 featured seven birdies and no bogeys – when he won the Scrutton Jug for the best combined scores at the Brabazon and the Berkshire Trophy, which he won in June.
Chegwidden (pictured above) said: “It was pretty mad, really.
“It got to a point on 13 when I holed a nice ten-footer to get to six I thought I might have a chance and I birdied the next too.
“I needed some more birdies but finished with four straight pars – I left my putt on 16 a hair short.
“I’m 100% proud of efforts this week. If someone has said I’d be tied fourth going into the last round of the Brabazon and then shot 64 I’d have taken it.
“Well done to Sam – he’s played quality golf all week. He showed his class.”
The George Henriques Salver – presented to the leading GB&I player aged under 20 – was shared by England boys’ squad members Josh Hill and Frank Kennedy on a score of +1.
The winner of that award the last time the Brabazon was staged at Ganton in 2006 was Rory McIlroy.
Photography credit: Leaderboard