International Paul Howard ensured the South American Amateur title stayed in English hands when he won the ninth Championship at the Barranquilla Country Club in Colombia, succeeding Callum Shinkwin, now a professional, who won the event a year ago.
In a week where English players were always to the fore, Lancastrian Howard (on left, image copyright Colombian Golf Federation) carded a closing round of 69 for 284, four under par and a six-shot winning margin from home-based Ricardo Celia with Devon’s Jimmy Mullen third on 291.
Howard, from the Southport & Ainsdale club, who made his England debut in last year’s Home Internationals at Ganton, led at the halfway mark after his first 69 and he shared top spot with Mullen on 215 going into the final day. But while the Devon man slipped back with a closing 76, Howard raced away to claim his maiden overseas title and the biggest of his career.
"It's unbelievable. I cannot have asked for a better ending to this great week,” he said “It was my first time here and I loved it. We played in difficult conditions and I am delighted to have won," added the 23 year old.
Howard 's bid for the trophy was soon apparent. Four pars and two birdies in his first six holes saw him out in front and he added another a third successive birdie on the par-five seventh. "On the fifth I hit a good second shot to less than two feet. That was the first of three birdies I had on the front nine "he said.
A bogey on nine slowed his pace and another shot went on 11, which gave compatriot Mullen hope. However, Howard struck a great second shot on the par-four 14th for another birdie while he closed with his fifth at the long 18 for his 69 and a comfortable six-shot cushion from Colombia’s Ricardo Celia, who finished with a fine 68.
"I think what gave me hope was what I did in the second round when I played very solid. That gave me a good boost to finish the job, "said Howard, who will seek to add to this success in Portugal and Spain in the coming weeks.
Mullen emerged as the first round leader after a sparkling 66, which included an eagle and five birdies, but was unable to consolidate his position. In the final round, the Devonian was out in 39 with just one birdie but found four in a homeward 37 along with two bogeys and a triple-bogey seven at the 12th.
Yorkshire’s Nick Marsh finished equal ninth on 297 after a closing level-par 72, while Ashley Chesters from Shropshire & Herefordshire, who was hoping to add the title to his European crown, carded 303.
The R&A has supported the South American Amateur since it started in 2005 and has offered subsidies to up to 30 non-South American players, including the England squad, which helps with flights and entry fees.
The R&A’s Executive Director – Working for Golf, Duncan Weir commented, "Paul Howard's tremendous win was achieved in difficult hot and windy conditions and should boost his confidence for the domestic season ahead. This was the second successive year that The R&A had supported the participation of players from each of the four home countries and with Scotland's Gemma Dryburgh finishing second in the women's event and everyone from GB&I making a positive impression, on and off the course, the entire exercise was a huge success."
Leading final scores:
284 P Howard (Eng) 71 69 75 69
290 R Celia (Col) 75 74 73 68
291 J Mullen (Eng) 66 77 72 76
292 J A Miranda (Ecu) 75 72 72 76
293 J Garcia (Ven) 74 73 74 72
Other England scores:
297 N Marsh 76 73 76 72
303 A Chesters 76 80 72 75