The 23-year-old looked beyond hope at the halfway point before turning the match on its head and coming through the dramatic contest
Laird Shepherd Crowned Amateur Champion After Epic Comeback
Laird Shepherd produced one of the greatest comebacks you’re ever likely to see to win the Amateur Championship at Nairn and earn a spot in three of the four majors, including July’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
In the traditional 36-hole final, the 23-year-old squared off against Monty Scowsill in an all-English affair for one of golf’s oldest trophies.
However, it looked like being a contest unbefitting of the occasion when Scowsill took an eight-up lead to the final hole of the morning round. A win at the 18th reduced Shepherd’s arrears to seven at lunch but not even his most ardent supporters could have predicted what was to come.
After chipping away at his opponent’s advantage in the afternoon, Shepherd still had a mountain to climb at five down with seven to go and dormie four down. But the ex-University of Stirling student, well versed in overcoming adversity having suffered serious knee and back injuries in recent times, managed to force the contest to extra time, before prevailing at the 38th.
“It’s an amazing, amazing feeling. To come back from eight down through 17 holes, I mean I was honestly more concerned about not making an embarrassing record-breaking defeat,” an emotional and shell-shocked Shepherd said after completing the unlikeliest of victories.
“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.
“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.
“I feel for Monty, he is a mate of mine. He did play so well, holed a lot of great putts. He didn’t give it away, he really didn’t. He holed greats putts on the 34th and the 35th to make me hole mine. It’s then a tough tee shot on the 36th and that kind of thing can happen.
“I said to my dad and girlfriend after the first 18 holes that I felt really, really flat and didn’t have any adrenaline. I can’t remember the last time I played 36 holes in a day, never mind three days in a row. Touch wood, my body is feeling good, there is still work to be done in that area, but I managed to get the motivation going on the back nine.”
The win also completed a rare double for the University of Stirling after Louise Duncan’s triumph in last week’s Women’s Amateur Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie).
Shepherd has now booked his place in the field for the 2022 Masters and US Open, but first on the agenda is a debut appearance in July’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s – a reality he is understandably relishing.
“It’s just going to be really special,” he added. “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.”