A dramatic three-shot swing on the Old Course’s renowned 14th hole turned the tide of the St Andrews Links Trophy in favour of England international Jake Burnage.
Compatriot Matty Lamb had led the prestigious event for elite amateurs since Friday morning but his bogey on the great long hole to Burnage’s eagle erased his remaining advantage and left him trailing the man from Saunton in Dorset.
Burnage, a member of Craig Watson’s Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup squad, parred his way in from there for a 69 to complete a remarkable 17-under for his three rounds on the Old Course over the weekend, and a four-round aggregate of 268 – four behind Daan Huizing’s tournament record from 2012 but only the second total under 270 in the history of the event.
“It’s easily my biggest win, and it’s great to have done it at St Andrews of all places,” said Burnage, who was third in last year’s event.
His run to the title was sparked by an escape from the road and the wall at the 17th for a par in the morning round, but the key was unquestionably his eagle three at the 14th, with the breeze helping slightly from the right.
“I hit a solid drive down the middle, then had 295 yards and hit a three-wood to 12 feet,” he said. “I haven’t had many three-shot swings to take the lead before, that’s for sure.”
It was a galling experience for Hexham’s Lamb, who shot 64-63 on the first two days and ended up losing by a shot.
Lamb had even survived seeing his six-shot lead on Sunday morning whittled back to one by Burnage on the fifth of the afternoon round, when he found a tough lie in a greenside bunker in two and took six, but established his three-shot lead again by the turn.
However the other long hole cost him with a flier out of another greenside bunker and a miss for par from inside three feet.
The Borderer missed a five foot chance for birdie at 17 and then had a nine-footer for a three on the last to force a play-off, but missed both.
Burnage’s girlfriend Helena pulled out of the West of England Ladies championship in Bath on Saturday night when she was told Jake was in with a chance to win and drove nine hours to be there when he won.
He’s played in one of the GB&I squad sessions at Royal Liverpool for the Walker Cup so far, and it went pretty well.
“I missed the first get-together because I was playing in Florida but at the second I shot 66, which was my first-ever look at Hoylake,” he said.
“It’s links golf, and I grew up playing that at Saunton, so there’s no mystery really for me.”
Ireland’s Caolan Rafferty charged up with a final round 65 to claim third on his own, with a final aggregate of 271 – which would have been handily good enough to win every Links Trophy bar one this century.
Former Stirling University student James Wilson moved up to a share of fourth with a final round 67, birdieing both 17 and 18 to move up.
“I had very few long putts all day, my only mistake was the three-putt at 15” said the 23-year-old, who only started playing seriously on the amateur circuit after he graduated last year.
“The ultimate ambition is to get into the Walker Cup team but I realise that’s going to be a tough one with so many guys ahead of me, and I’m going to need some big performances.”
Ben Caton, of the New Club, finished in a tie for 22nd with a one-under 71 in the final round.