European Amateur defence gets Ashley into next year’s Open - but only if he stays amateur
ENGLAND’S Ashley Chesters has become the first player to claim back-to-back European Amateur Championship titles - and with it the chance of a return trip to the Open Championship.
The 24-year-old, who was the first English player to win the European title since 2004 when he triumphed at El Prat in Spain 12 months ago, held his nerve to retain the crown, this time over the breezy Duke’s Course in St Andrews.
Having triumphed in the All Square Golf-sponsored event, Chesters now has the opportunity to return to the ‘home of golf’ next summer and line-up among the best players in the game in the 2015 Open at the Old Course.
Chesters has already experienced of the world’s oldest major championship having played at Royal Liverpool this summer. He missed the cut after rounds of 70 and 77.
Chesters, though, has a decision to make as he has been thinking of a move into the professional ranks and had been intending to go through the gruelling late season European Tour Qualifying School.
Turning pro, of course, would invalidate his place in the Open through via the European Amateur.
“I’m going to have to have a think,” said Chesters. “The Open at St Andrews would be hard to turn down. It’s one of my favourite courses.”
The European Amateur was first played in 1986 and previous winners include current Open champion Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Stephen Gallacher and Victor Dubuisson. Chesters, though, has gone one better than all of them by winning the title for a second time.
Among the 18 groups who returned early on Saturday morning to complete their third rounds after a weather delay due to torrential rain, thunder and lightning, Chesters finished his remaining 12 holes and posted a fine two-under 69 to hit the front on three-under-par after 54 holes in Fife, securing a three-stroke lead.
On a pleasant final afternoon - despite gusts of wind that reached 30 mph at times - Chesters produced a steady closing round, holding off the challenge of German Max Roehrig, Gary Hurley from Ireland and Italian Enrico Di Nitto.
The Englishman “hardly hit a bad shot” over the opening 16 holes of his final round, securing a five-shot lead with two holes to play thanks to birdies at the 15th and 16th. However, he four-putted the par-3 17th for a double-bogey, before making bogey on the last to see his winning margin cut to three. On a demanding final day, he played 30 holes in total.
Chesters’ two-under-par winning total meant that he was the only player to finish under-par, three ahead of Roehrig and Hurley on one-over-par, with Di Nitto fourth on two-over,
Craigie Hill’s Daniel Young finished as the leading Scottish player on six-over-par in a share of 15th spot.
England international Chesters, from Hawkstone Park Golf Club, added: “I played good all day until those last two holes but I knew I had some shots in hand, thankfully. There are a lot of good names on the trophy and to have won it twice is amazing.”
The impressive Duke’s Golf Club, owned by the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa, offered one of the best heathland championship courses in the UK for the international 144-player field.
The Scottish Golf Union hosted the event, together with support from the European Golf Association, the host club and All Square Golf, a new social media platform connecting golfers from all over the world and helping clubs to promote their courses to visitors.
Photo: Kenny Smith Photography