England’s Conor Gough wins Boys’ Amateur

England’s Conor Gough defeated Jose Luis Ballester of Spain by 3/1 to win the 92nd Boys’ Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.

The 15-year-old becomes first English player to lift the trophy since Matthew Fitzpatrick’s victory at Notts (Hollinwell) in 2012.

As a result of his victory he will now play in The 124th Amateur Championship at Portmarnock and The Island, and gains an exemption into Final Qualifying for The 148th Open, also at Royal Portrush.

Gough (Stoke Park) has already won the McGregor Trophy and the boys’ title at the Fairhaven Trophy this season. He said: “I feel incredible. It’s a dream come true.

“I never thought it would have happened this year. I knew I was playing well but I didn’t quite think I’d go this far. Now I’m here, the winner, so I’m really happy with myself.”

Gough teed off for the second round of the final 2up over Ballester after a closely contested opening 18 holes of high quality golf.

Gough stumbled in the early stages of the afternoon round with a double bogey at the 20th and a bogey on the 21st which enabled Ballester to square the match once more. The lead continued to swing to-and-fro on the front nine with neither player able to build a commanding lead.

With the crowds building, the key moment came at the par four 29th. Having watched Ballester roll in a 20ft putt for birdie, Gough stood over his own which rested around 15ft from the pin. Under pressure, he read the line brilliantly and used the break off the left to find the hole.

On the next, both players found the bottom of a steep embankment with their approach shots to the green. Ballester showed his touch to pitch close to the pin from the heavy rough but Gough went one better as he delighted the crowd by chipping in for eagle and a one-hole lead.

Gough never looked back from that point and grew in confidence as the match neared its conclusion. He carded another birdie at the par four 32nd to double his lead and required just a half for victory at the 35th.

When Ballester’s tee shot landed in a gorse bush to the left of the fairway he deemed the ball unplayable and took a drop under penalty of one stroke. Sadly, the young Spaniard’s approach fell just short and found a greenside bunker at which point he conceded the hole and the match to the Englishman who completed a memorable 3&1 victory.

“The turning moment was 11 (the 29th),” said Gough. “I made a 15ft putt birdie to stay all-square and then 12 was big for eagle. I parred 13 and then made another really important birdie on 14.”

He added: “Jose was really good. He gave me a very good game and he impressed me quite a lot with his irons – he was hitting it close.”

During the match play stages Gough’s scalps included the European amateur champion, Nicolai Hojgaard of Demark, and his twin brother, Rasmus,

 

Image of Conor Gough with the Boys’ Aamateur trophy courtesy The R&A/Getty Images