Laird Shepherd produced one of the greatest ever comebacks to win The 126th Amateur Championship in emotional scenes at Nairn to defeat compatriot Monty Scowsill in an enthralling final that went all the way to the 38th hole.
In an all-England 36-hole Final with Monty Scowsill over the renowned Highland links, the 23-year-old remarkably fought back from eight down after 17 holes and from four down with four to play to triumph at the 38th hole in an extraordinary match.
Tears at finale
Having battled with knee and back injuries in recent times and worked in a Tesco call centre during Covid-19 lockdown, Shepherd was in tears at the dramatic conclusion given the enormity of what the former R&A Foundation Scholar has achieved.
In his fourth appearance at The Amateur, the ex-University of Stirling student was warmly hugged by his girlfriend, the Scottish amateur player Chloe Goadby, and friend and caddie, Andrew Davidson.
“It’s an amazing, amazing feeling,” said Shepherd. “To come back from eight down through 17 holes, I mean I was honestly more concerned about not making an embarrassing record-breaking defeat. Monty played so good in the morning, so composed, and I didn’t really have my game. To turn it around was unbelievable.
“The tears are probably for the tough times I’ve had over the last few years. It’s never nice as an athlete when you feel like you are going backwards, like I was.”
Shepherd, a member of Rye Golf Club in East Sussex, can now look forward to competing in The 149th Open at Royal St George’s next month, the 2022 US Open and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament.
Shepherd, who joins a roll of honour that includes José María Olazábal, Sergio Garcia, Matteo Manassero and Romain Langasque, will also be invited to play in an event on the European Tour.
He added: “The last 18 holes I thought ‘I’m not going to win’, but at least I could get a few highlights that I can watch on YouTube one night! It’s just amazing how things can change.
“Looking back on it, winning the 18th was so important. I just managed to get into a bit of a groove in the afternoon once I won a few holes. I can’t describe how I felt coming down the last four holes but I was in a calm place. In the morning, I was all over the place and was more concerned about being sick on live TV.”
Special experiences ahead
On playing in The 149th Open at Royal St George’s, he smiled: “It’s just going to be really special. Whatever happens in the events I’m now going to play, nobody can take that experience away from me. I’m so looking forward to testing my game out against the best players in the world.
“I’ve played a few South East links championships at Royal St George’s and I’ve always enjoyed the course. It’s the closest one to my home address in Sussex in terms of The Open venues. I went there as a kid watching Opens.”
The Final, which was live broadcast on The R&A’s YouTube and Facebook accounts as well as on randa.org, saw two former R&A Foundation Scholars go head-to-head after coming through the 144-player field.
Photograph credit: The R&A