TURNBERRY, Scotland (June 21, 2008) --Reinier Saxton has won the 113th Amateur Championship on the Ailsa course at Turnberry.
The 20-year-old Dutchman played superb golf throughout the final, despite steadily worsening conditions that saw a dry and windless day transfomed into one of rain and high wind. He fired eight birdies in 34 holes of golf to beat 17-year-old Englishman Tommy Fleetwood by three and two.
Though Saxton's excitement at having won was clearly evident, he claimed to have felt calm throughout the final.
"I felt quite relaxed," he said afterwards. "Of course you're going to feel a little pressure over the last few holes, but I just had to stay focused whatever happened. Even when you're three holes ahead you can still lose."
The final was a fantastically closely-fought affair, and after Saxton got off to a flying start with birdies at two of the first three holes his opponent quickly got back into the match to draw level by the end of the first nine. The back-and-forth continued throughout the morning, with Saxton losing the 17th and 18th holes to go into lunch all square.
The afternoon continued in the same vein, and for a long time it seemed as if the match might continue indefinitely. Both Saxton and Fleetwood notched up several birdies each on the front nine, but it was at the 11th hole where the game swung. Plugged in a bunker at the front of the 11th green, Saxton blasted out to 20ft and holed the putt for a par that took him to two-up as Fleetwood's shorter effort ran past. A birdie at the next made it three, and on the 13th he got away with a flyer second that went 40 yards past the pin when Fleetwood also bogeyed the hole. Saxton kept himself together with a string of good putts and closed out the match on the 16th green after Fleetwood was forced to lay up with his second shot.
"11, 12 and 13 was definitely the turning point," said Saxton. "11 I holed a good putt, 12 I made a good birdie, and actually I made a good bogey on 13. That was probably the hardest hole on the course today."
Saxton's opponent, Tommy Fleetwood, was a valiant opponent, but a series of wayward shots over the final nine holes cost the Englishman his chance at becoming the youngest ever winner of The Amateur Championship.
"He just played much better than me - tee to green he was much better than I was," said Fleetwood. "He deserved to win more than me. I can't be disapointed - I did better than 286 other golfers but I would have liked to have won."
For Saxton, however, his thoughts now turn to the winner's invitations to play in The Open at Birkdale and next year's Masters at Augusta. It's a privilege that he is the second Dutchman to enjoy, following Rolf Muntz who won The Amateur at Muirfield in 1990. But with golf in his home country now stronger than ever - a fact which Saxton attributes to the tireless efforts of the Netherlands Golf Federation - there may not be another 18-year wait before another Dutch name goes on the trophy.