Joe Sullivan (England Golf photo)
admitted it will take some time for it to sink in that his name will soon adorn one of the most famous and sought-after trophies in amateur golf.
The new English Men’s Amateur champion was almost lost for words after he earned a hard-fought 3&1 victory over George Ash
in Sunday's 36-hole final at Lindrick Golf Club.
His name will now join the likes of Sir Nick Faldo, Sir Michael Bonallack, Paul Casey, Danny Willett and Tommy Fleetwood on a piece of silverware that was first played for in 1925.
The golfer from Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club in Sussex started the week with low expectations after a summer of swing changes left him fighting to find consistency of performance.
But the hard work paid off in the toughest week of the year as Sullivan came through six days of golf featuring two rounds of stroke play and then six match play encounters to lift the famous trophy.
Ash – who can also be proud of an exceptional week of golf – pushed his fellow competitor all the way but found himself three down after the morning round.
Despite narrowing the gap to just one by the 29th hole, Sullivan pulled clear to finally seal the victory on the 35th hole.
He said: “It’s amazing – I’m speechless to be honest. To win this at the end of a long week, I’m really ecstatic.
“It’s been missed cut after missed cut and then finally this week I got the swing back in shape and I’m really happy to win.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it will tonight.
“I’ve seen the names on the trophy and it’s a privilege to win this.”
The match tipped in Sullivan’s favor over the closing holes of the tightly-contested morning session.
As Sulivan stood on the 17th tee, he was able to enjoy a one-hole advantage.
Half an hour later as he tucked into a chicken sandwich in the clubhouse, he was three holes to the good.
Two pars were enough to win the final two holes of the morning round.
However, Ash was too dogged a performer to be down AND out.
Instead, he dug in and fought back to narrow the advantage to two holes with a win on the third hole.
Sullivan stretched the lead back to three holes when Ash found trouble in the gorse on the right of the eighth hole and could only make five.
And suddenly the lead was four when a bogey on 10 allowed Sullivan to win with another steady four.
A large crowd had gathered at Lindrick to watch the men’s final – understandable given the proximity of Hallowes, where Ash is a member, to this year’s host venue.
Sullivan knew he had at least four fans in the crowd – caddie Josef Hacker, who himself had played earlier in the week, brother Sam and dad Chris.
The Yorkshire crowd had something to cheer about when Ash won the 11th with a par, and the 12th and 13th holes with birdies.
Yet just when it seemed as if the momentum had switched to Ash, another errant drive left into the hay on 14 cost him dearly. Sullivan’s birdie took him back into a two-hole lead.
Coming down 16, Sullivan had a four-footer to clinch the match – only to watch it slip by.
And then on 17, Ash might have thought his luck had changed when a tee shot down the right struck a stationary buggy parked in the rough and cannoned back towards the fairway.
However, the Yorkshireman then missed the green with his approach and failed to get up and down. With Sullivan safely on in two, and having rolled his first putt to within two feet, the hole and the match was conceded.
ABOUT THE English Amateur
The English Amateur was played in its inaugural
year of 1925 at Hoylake when local golfer T
Froes Ellison captured the title. He successfully
defended the following year at Walton
Heath, a feat achieved by only six others: Frank
Pennink, Alan Thirlwell, Michael Bonallack, Harry
Ashby, Mark Foster, and Paul Casey. Sir Nick
Faldo is the most famous to have won the event
as the six-time major champion won the 1975
tournament at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
The tournament consists of two stroke
play rounds, after which the top 64 players
will advance to the match
play rounds, culminating in a 36-hole final
between two finalists.
View Complete Tournament Information