TURNBERRY, Scotland (June 20, 2008) --England's Tommy Fleetwood and Dutchman Reinier Saxton have made their way through to the final of The Amateur Championship at Turnberry's Ailsa course.
At just 17 years old Fleetwood would be the youngest ever winner of the championship, but he showed calm beyond his years with a smooth, calm performance to knock out Nuneaton's Andrew Sullivan. After winning the first two holes, Fleetwood then allowed Sullivan to get back on terms, and the match was still all square on the 13th hole. At that stage, however, Sullivan started to waver, bogeying the 14th and 15th to allow Fleetwood reach two up on the 16th tee. Sullivan then hooked his tee shot into the rough and hooked his second into a gorse bush; with Fleetwood safely on the green, the match was effectively over.
"It was incredible," said Fleetwood. "I played brilliant again. I was happy just to get to the last 64, and happy again to make the last 32 but it just keeps on going."
Fleetwood has had his father caddying for him all week, "even though when he normally caddies for me it doesn't go well," he said. "But it's been good this week! He doesn't help me with reading greens or anything, but he's been great talking to me between shots and calming me down.
"I'm just trying to keep doing everything like I always do. If I play well tomorrow I know I've got a great chance."
Reinier Saxton was the only one of the last four who'd come through without any of his matches going to sudden death, and after getting to two up with three holes to play it seemed as if Joe Vickery would be another opponent economically despatched. But the Welshman had other ideas, fighting back brilliantly with a birdie on the 17th and then almost holing a huge putt from just off the front of the 18th green. Yet the long putt slid just past the edge, leaving Saxton to roll up to two and a half feet and knock the putt in to win one-up.
"It doesn't feel like it's sunk in yet," the Dutchman said afterwards. "I just feel like I've won a few match play rounds."
Saxton's appearance in the final of The Amateur Championship is something of a surprise for a player who played little and practiced less all of last season. After years of playing international level golf, he admitted to feeling burnt out during 2007 and almost walked away from the game, despite a track record of victories which includes everything from winning his age group in the 2002 Junior Open at Musselburgh to lifting the Dutch Match Play Championship three times.
"I've definitely exceeded my expectations," he said. "I love match play, so I always thought that if I got through the stroke play rounds I would have a chance."
And now that he's in the final, that chance is greater than ever. "I'm trying not to think about what it would mean. There's still 36 holes to go, and that's a long way."