John, the reigning Victorian Amateur champion, made his move this morning with a flawless eight-birdie haul to move into a two-shot lead ahead of overnight leader Forrest going into the final round, and held his nerve despite late bogeys on 14 and 15.
Playing links golf for the very first time this week, his knock-down approach shot from 97 yards to set up a birdie from two feet at the last, was played in his words, “like a born and bred Scotsman”, to round off the championship in some style, which had shades of Rickie Fowler’s final hole birdie in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane nearly a year ago.
The Australian was vying for the lead with Forrest (Craigielaw) for much of the final day, and with the East Lothian man getting off to a flying start in the afternoon with birdies on each of the first four holes, it looked like the local support was in for a thrilling finish. But a costly double-bogey from a loose tee shot on the 7th hole damaged Forrest’s chances, as he eventually had to settle for a share of second place with Ireland’s Grehan, who produced an excellent final round 66.
Peebles’ Craig Howie, second in the Welsh Stroke Play last week, put himself into contention with a third round 65, matched by Drumoig’s Connor Syme as a clutch of Scots battled to become the first home player to take the title since Wallace Booth eight years ago.
Howie couldn’t quite keep up his morning momentum, posting a two-under 69 in the final round to clinch fourth place on 10-under, one clear of Syme, while joint overnight leader Sandy Scott (Nairn) signed off with a one-over 72 to share sixth place with English duo George Bloor and Adam Chapman.
“I’m certainly pretty happy with that performance. It was a lot of fun out there and easy to relax given I was playing with my club-mate Zach (Murray) so it felt like a normal day’s golf,” said the new champion, who had made the trip to Scotland with several of his Golf Australia colleagues.
“I won the Victorian Amateur and the Argentinian Amateur Championship in November, but this is my first time playing golf in the UK and the biggest event I have won.
“Royal Melbourne is the only course back home which is like playing links, but I’ve loved the experience and it sets me up well for the next few weeks over here. Gullane is one of the best courses I have played and having watched the Tour pros play the Scottish Open last year on TV, its awesome to have come here and won.”
“Golf Australia’s support has been fantastic in giving us the opportunity to come over here and play and I’m looking forward to getting up to St Andrews to play the Links Trophy next week,” he added.
Forrest, who heads to The Home of Golf next week looking to win the St Andrews Links Trophy for the second time in three years, took the positives from his performance.
“I got off to a great start this afternoon with four birdies but the double-bogey on seven really knocked my chances. I finished nicely however and I’m hitting my irons as good as I ever have, so I’m really happy with my game. A win would have been great but I just need to make a few less bogeys, and I’m feeling confident going into the next few weeks with some big events coming up.”
A special mention also to reigning Scottish Amateur Champion Bob MacIntyre, who aced the 13th hole with a 7-iron during his third round on his way to a 68, ending the week in a share of 12th spot, while last week’s Welsh Amateur Stroke Play chamion Barry Hume was one shot behind him on 5-under par, tied 17th.