The famous 17th at the Old Course proved the key yet again as Ireland’s Conor O’Rourke denied Scots teenager Sandy Scott the St Andrews Links Trophy title.
The 24-year-old from Naas near Dublin got his par despite being only a matter of inches from the infamous road while Scott, not 18 until later this month, failed to get up and down from the Road Bunker.
That single stroke was enough for the unheralded Irishman to claim his first “proper title” with a par on 18 after a nip and tuck battle with the Nairn youngster down the back nine of the Old Course into a chilling June wind.
For O’Rourke, not even an Irish international squad member until this season, it was a dream come true to win his first significant tournament in amateur golf at the home of the game, finishing with a final round 70 for a 12-under par aggregate of 275.
“To win is fantastic, to win my first proper tournament here is just unbelievable,” he said. “The only thing I’ve won before was a wee scratch event in Ireland. I’m just relieved I managed to keep my head together.”
The Irishman, a leader by a shot after 36 holes, had got been tied going into the final round after his morning 71 to Scott’s 70, but the youngster misjudged his second to the first green and found the Swilcan Burn for an immediate double bogey.
However Scott, again wearing his favoured “Duffer” woolly hat despite the summer sunshine, got one back at the fourth and made his charge around the loop with birdies the 9th and 10th, and when O’Rourke’s tee shot went over the back of the 11th, the teenager’s birdie at 12 had them tied for the final stretch.
Scott holed out for par from 15 feet at the long 14th to stay tied only for O’Rourke to hit a nine-iron to within six inches at 15. But the Irishman handed it back at the 16th by tugging his second shot way left and three-putting from 90 feet.
At the 17th O’Rourke pushed his second right, bouncing over the bank but stopping on the strip of grass between the path and the road, while Scott hit his eight-iron from a good position into the infamous trap.
O’Rourke was able to chip to three feet and make his par, while Scott escaped from the sand but saw his par putt from ten feet burn the hole on the right.
“I was just happy to see my ball on grass of some kind,” admitted O’Rourke. “It wasn’t a great lie but I was able to do something with it.”
“My second shot was maybe a bit of nerves,” said Scott about 17. “I’d played pretty well all day and come back well from my mistake at the first, but I’m happy with my performance.
“That’s most of the events this year I’ve finished in the top 10 or 15 and I feel I’m in good form. I’ll keep wearing the hat throughout the summer, I think!”
Scotland’s Walker Cup cap Ewen Ferguson showed his best form of the season in finishing outright third on ten-under after a final round 71.
“I was pushing too hard at the start and putting too much pressure on myself, and it was only when I hung back that I started to play as I can,” he said. “I’m pretty happy with my form coming into the main part of the season.”
Two more of the Scottish international squad, Calum Fyfe and Jamie Savage, both with final round 69s, finished in a share of fourth place on nine-under with France’s Victor Veyret, who had the best final round of 67 to jump 20 places up the leaderboard.