By ALISTAIR TAIT
TURNBERRY, Scotland – No matter who won, history was guaranteed to be made at the 113th British Amateur Championship. In the end, it was Dutchman Reinier Saxton who carved his own little niche in the game’s oldest amateur tournament by defeating England’s Tommy Fleetwood, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole final.
The 20-year-old from Amsterdam became only the second Dutch player to win in the 123-year history of the event.
Saxton lived up to 1990 champion Rolf Muntz’s exhortation. Muntz, who won the title at Muirfield 18 years ago, played in a Dutch tournament recently with Saxton and gave his young pretender just one order: “Bring back the trophy.”
Saxton ended his 17-year-old opponent’s dream of becoming the youngest player to win the Amateur Championship.
“It’s hard to realize it yet,” Saxton said. “I don’t know what to say. Rolf (Muntz) is a good guy and he’s probably very happy for me.”
There was never much to the match all day. Saxton was 2 up with two holes to play in the morning round but lost the 17th and 18th to go back to all square at lunch. If there was any sense of panic, the Dutch player did a good job of hiding it.
“I was very relaxed and confident all day,” Saxton said. “It didn’t bother me losing the 17th and 18th because I just saw it as two lost holes in the middle of the match.”
Saxton went ahead for good with a birdie at the par-3 sixth hole in the afternoon when he holed from 9 feet to go 1-up.
The turning point came at the 11th, 12th and 13th holes. Saxton saved par from a bunker on the par-3 11th, then birdied the par-4 12th from 10 feet to win both holes and go 3-up. He then managed a half with a bogey at the 13th after overshooting the green by 40 yards.
Fleetwood had a chance to win the 13th but did not get up and down from off the green.
From then on, John Beharrell (1956) and Bobby Cole (1966) were in little danger of being usurped as youngest ever winners of the British Amateur. Both were 18 years and one month when they won the title.
Muntz played in the 1990 Open Championship and 1991 Masters and missed both cuts. Although he’s no longer on the European Tour, he won the Qatar Masters in 2000.
Saxton booked places in next month’s Open Championship and next year's Masters as a result of winning.
“Of course it’s a dream come true to play in the (British) Open and the Masters. I was going to try for my European card later this year, but there’s no point. I’ll just have to win the Masters and then turn pro,” he joked.
Fleetwood impressed everyone at Turnberry with a display of maturity beyond his years. He took down former University of South Alabama player Jonathan Caldwell and Indiana’s Jorge Campillo of Spain to advance to the final.
Although he had bettered the Dutchman at the St. Andrews Links Trophy, the youngster looked more nervous in the final. He hung in thanks to a string of fine par saves, but it wasn’t enough.
“He played better than me and deserved to win,” Fleetwood said. “I only hit four greens this afternoon so I didn’t deserve it. I could be disappointed, but I did better than 286 other players so I can’t really be too disappointed.”
Saxton moved to No. 50 in the Golfweek/Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking with the victory, while Fleetwood moved to No. 110.
Saxton now takes part in the European men’s championship in Italy at the beginning of next month. Fleetwood, meanwhile, still has a two years of junior golf left to play. After this performance, he is a good bet to take the British Boys’ Championship at Little Aston in August.
In the meantime he’ll no doubt spend time considering offers from college coaches after making it clear college golf was definitely on the table as an “option.”
• • •
Alistair Tait is a Golfweek senior writer. To reach him e-mail [email protected]
Final results from the British Amateur, played June 16-21 at Turnberry (Scotland) Golf Club:
Reinier Saxton def. Tommy Fleetwood 3 and 2
Reinier Saxton def. Joe Vickey 1 up Tommy Fleetwood def. Andrew Sullivan 3 and 2
Reinier Saxton def. Pedro Figueiredo 3 and 2 Joe Vickery def. James Frazer 22 holes Andrew Sullivan def. Andrea Pavan 2 and 1 Tommy Fleetwood def. Jorge Campillo 1 up
Reinier Saxton def. Jason Barnes 3 and 1 Pedro Figueiredo def. Dale Whitnell 3 and 2 James Frazer def. John Carroll 5 and 4 Joe Vickery def. David Markle 2 and 1 Andrew Sullivan def. Maximilian Kieffer 5 and 3 Andrea Pavan def. Steven McEwan 2 and 1 Jorge Campillo def. Chris Wood 5 and 4 Tommy Fleetwood def. Jonathan Caldwell 20 holes
Jason Barnes def. T.J. Bordeaux 4 and 2 Reinier Saxton def. Tom Prowse 1 up Dale Whitnell def. Scott Arnold 5 and 3 Pedro Figueiredo def. Jamie Abbott 1 up John Carroll def. Callum Macaulay 21 holes James Frazer def. Ignacio Elvira 19 holes David Markle def. Kevin McAlpine 19 holes Joe Vickery def. Ben Westgate 1 up Andrew Sullivan def. Nigel Edwards 19 holes Maximilian Kieffer def. Bill Rankin 2 up Steven McEwan def. Jake Amos 4 and 3 Andrea Pavan def. Rhein Gibson 1 up Jorge Campillo def. Gareth Shaw 3 and 2 Chris Wood def. Christopher Paisley 23 holes Tommy Fleetwood def. Jacques Guillet 5 and 4 Jonathan Caldwell def. Floris De Vries 5 and 3
T J Bordeaux def. Sam Hutsby 3 and 2 Jason Barnes def. David Antonelli 4 and 2 Reinier Saxton def. Zachariah Gould 4 and 2 Federico Colombo def. Tom Prowse 3 and 1 Scott Arnold def. Benjamin Hebert 3 and 1 Dale Whitnell def. David Corsby 2 and 1 Pedro Figueiredo def. Lewis Kirton 2 and 1 Jamie Abbott def. Edward Richardson 2 up Callum Macaulay def. Neil Henderson 4 and 3 John Carroll def. Lindsay Renolds 3 and 2 James Frazer def. Niall Kearney 19 holes Ignacio Elvira def. Andrew Hogan 2 and 1 Kevin McAlpine def. Joon Kim 3 and 1 David Markle def. Allen John 2 and 1 Joe Vickery def. Maximilian Glauert 1 up Ben Westgate def. Nino Bertasio 3 and 1 Andrew Sullivan def. Adam Mitchell 4 and 3 Nigel Edwards def. Mark Thistleton 4 and 3 Maximilian Kieffer def. David Coupland 2 and 1 Bill Rankin def. James Gill 2 and 1 Steven McEwan def. Matthew Nixon 3 and 2 Jake Amos def. Joel Stalter 1 up Rhein Gibson def. Jonas Blixt 1 up Andrea Pavan def. Derik Ferreira 2 and 1 Jorge Campillo def. Steven Uzzell 1 up Gareth Shaw def. Jacques Blaauw 4 and 3 Christopher Paisley def. Farren Keenan 1 up Chris Wood def. Tim Stewart 3 and 2 Jacques Guillet def. Matthew Cryer default Tommy Fleetwood def. Jurrian Van Der Vaart 3 and 1 Floris De Vries def. Charles Ford 1 up Jonathan Caldwell def. Alexander Culverwell 4 and 3