Wales (August 11, 2012) -- Rhys Pugh, the 18 year old East Tennessee University student from Wales has captured the Chartis Europe sponsored European Amateur Championship at Carton House Golf Club.
On a day when the Montgomerie designed golf course showed its teeth, it was the young Welshman that battled the course, and the wind, to lift the most coveted stroke play event in the world for amateur golfers.
Having started the day eight shots off the lead, a closing round of 66 propelled him to the top of the leader board with nine groups left on course.
A nervy 90 minute wait ensued, and with word filtering through to the clubhouse that Pugh’s Welsh teammate, James Frazer had left a putt hanging over the edge of the hole on 18, which would have forced a play-off, Pugh began to let it sink in that he was the European Amateur Champion for 2012.
"I always thought I could do it. I really like the golf course, it sort of suits me. It's quite long and I've been hitting it a bit further lately. I thought I'd have to shoot 63, 62 to have a chance but it was a little bit windy so it was tougher".
The wind was a factor, gusting at times over 25kph, and the overnight leaders Pontus Widegren (Sweden) and Goncalo Pinto (Portugal) struggled to cope with rounds of 77 and 76 respectively.
James Frazer, who carded the new course record 62 on Friday, almost forced a play-off, missing out narrowly on the last green.
"If someone had said to me at the start of the week that I would finish second on ten-under I'd have bitten their hands off. It's the first time I've made the cut in this event, it's my fourth time playing in it."
"I spoke to Shane Lowry after the practice round and he said that level par would be a good score around here but, no it's been a great week and a Wales one and two".
Carton House has been a great friend to the Welsh, with Craig Smith lifting the Irish Amateur Open title in 2004, Stephen Dodd claiming the European Tour’s Irish Open in 2005 and now Rhys Pugh is added to the list of Welshmen claiming success at the Kildare venue.
Best of the Irish this week was Waterford Castle’s Kevin Phelan who finished in a tie for fourth place, just three shots behind the winner.
"I had a pretty good day, I could have putted a bit better. I would have given myself a chance if I'd holed a few more putts but I played well overall. It's quite tough out there so I was happy enough with the result."
Conor Mallaghan, Managing Director at Carton House is looking forward to welcoming Rhys Pugh back to compete as an amateur in next year’s Irish Open "We are absolutley delighted, the Monty showed its teeth a little bit more in the final round and a 66 to win it was a fitting score. We are delighted we got four nice days, the elite of European golf and a really genuine winner, so we're all looking forward to the Irish Open next year".
Not only will Pugh be invited to compete at Carton House in June, but it is a long standing tradition that the European Amateur Champion is invited to the Open Championship. Muirfield awaits Pugh and he is looking forward to it already.
“It's been my dream to play in the Open Championship since I started golf"