Rhys Pugh of Wales proudly shows off the trophy at Carton House. Picture by Pat CashmanWelsh teenager Rhys Pugh showed why he was such a heart-breaker for the United States in last year’s Walker Cup when he defied winds gusting over 20mph and closed with a sensational six under 66 to win the Chartis sponsored European Individual Amateur Championship by a shot at a windswept Carton House.

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The 18 year old from Pontypridd was eight shots behind Sweden’s Pontus Widegren with a round to go but after three days of mild breezes he sensed he had a chance when the wind started to blow and the 7,300 yard faux links started to show its considerable teeth.

He had to survive a nervous 90-minute wait to become the third Welsh winner of a major event on the Montgomerie Course, however, as compatriot James Frazer stood on the 17th tee needing a birdie-eagle finish to force a play-off.

Rhys Pugh holds one up. Picture by Pat CashmanFrazer, who shot a stunning course record 62 on Friday, hit an eight iron to three feet on the 17th and holed the putt but after reducing the downwind 513-yard 18th to a drive and a gap wedge, he agonisingly left his 20 foot eagle putt in the jaws and was forced to settle for second place

Pugh, who won the Irish Amateur Open Strokeplay at Royal Dublin last year, became the third Welshman to win on the Montgomerie Course following Craig Smith’s win in the Irish Amateur Open in 2004 and Stephen Dodd’s 2005 Irish Open victory.

“I always thought I could do it,” said the Pontypridd native, who finished on 11 under par to secure starts in next year’s Irish Open at Carton House and the Open Championship at Muirfield. ” I really like the golf course, it sort of suits me. It’s quite long and I’ve been hitting it a bit further lately.

“I’m in the States and they have a good gym programme over there. I’m just hitting it a bit further recently.

“I thought I’d have to shoot 63, 62 to have a chance but it was a little bit windy so it was tougher. It’s the biggest win of my career. It’s been my dream to play in the Open Championship since I started golf.

“I looked at the scoreboard after nine holes I thought I had a chance if I could pick up a few more. The field was coming back a bit and I was four behind Gonçalo Pinto on eight under. I was thinking if I can get it to 11 or 12 under I might be fine. When I came in, I was leading my two.”

Rhys Pugh struck a lot of solid iron shots on the final day. Picture by Pat CashmanWidegren led by shot overnight on 13 under but slumped to a 77 to finish tied for fourth with Ireland’s Kevin Phelan (71) and Portugal’s Pinto (76) on eight under.

Pinto also had a chance to win or force a play-off but his chance evaporated when he bogeyed the 16th and 17th.

Pugh, on the other hand, was sensational from the start. He went out in 33 with birdies at the third, fifth, seventh and eighth with a solitary bogey at the sixth.

Set to return to East Tennessee State for his second year of US college golf following the Home Internationals and the St Andrews Trophy, Pugh birdied the short third with a six iron to 25 feet and holed a 10 footer at the fifth before a bunkered tee shot at the sixth led to the first to just two bogeys.

After holing a 30 footer at the seventh, he got up and down from behind the eighth for another birdie and then got through the tough opening holes on the back nine in par.

The East Tennessee State Univeristy student believes he has added length this year. Picture by Pat Cashman“On 13 I made bogey,” he said. “I hit my drive too far down there and duffed my chip from 30 yards from the downslope into a bunker. But the eagle on the 15th was key.”

With the wind at his back coming home, he hit an eight iron to two feet at the 15th to get to four under for the day.

He then birdied the 16th from 10 feet and after a par at the short 17th, birdied the last when he chipped poorly to 15 feet after coming up short in two with a seven iron but holed the putt.

Frazer was disappointed to come up just short after playing steady golf to give himself a chance coming down the stretch.

Portugal’s Gonçalo Pinto laments a missed putt late in his round. Picture by Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ie“With that wind, the front nine was playing tougher and all the flags seemed to be pretty far back in the greens,” he said. “It definitely played tough but I gave myself a lot of chances.

“Making pars was the order of the day. I wasn’t thinking  anyone was going to shoot as good a score as Rhys did. I thought if I could get round in level par then I would have a chance but obviously after yesterday, shooting another good score was going to be tough.

“I’d said last night that if i could go out and shoot level par that I would have been happy. To shoot 71 was even better. On 17 I hit a really good eight iron to three feet. I knew I had to finish birdie eagle and yesterday I was six under for the last five. So it was good to know I had already done it and could do again.

“I hit a great drive down the last and a good gap wedge to 20 feet. To leave it an inch short was disappointing.”

So near and yet so far for James Frazer. Picture by Pat CashmanKevin Phelan was the best of the Irish in joint fourth with Widegren and Pinto on eight under after a 71.

“I had a pretty good day, I could have putted a bit better,” Phelan said. “I would have given myself a chance if I’d holed a few more putts but I played well overall. It’s quite tough out there so I was happy enough with the result.

“It’s the Home Internationals at Glasgow Gailes next week, so we’re all geared up to go. Most of us have played it in the British Amateur, so I can’t wait.”

Lucan’s Richard O’Donovan tied for 25th after a 71 with British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar a disappointing 41st after a closing 79.

Greystones’ Paul Dunne shot 74 to finish 47th with Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan tied for 50th after a 78.

European Individual Amateur Championship, Carton House (Montgomerie Course, Par 72)


277 R Pugh (Wal) 68 71 72 66

278 J Frazer (Wal) 71 74 62 71

279 T Sorensen (Den) 69 67 71 72

280 K Phelan (Ire) 73 66 70 71, P Widegren (Swe) 71 67 65 77, G Pinto (Por) 68 68 68 76

282 M Schwab (Austria) 67 73 72 70

283 M Clark (Sco) 72 68 71 72, A Boasson (Isl) 71 74 68 70, J Sarasti (Esp) 70 70 66 77, B Stow (Eng) 69 72 70 72, D Jennevret (Swe) 64 70 73 76

284 G Robertson (Sco) 75 65 72 72, T Elissalde (Fra) 74 70 71 69, C Shinkwin (Eng) 74 68 73 69, M Lampert (Ger) 70 74 70 70

285 C Sordet (Fra) 73 68 71 73, T Detry (Bel) 72 70 69 74, N Lindstrom (Swe) 68 74 70 73, R Kind (Ned) 68 72 72 73, G Porteous (Eng) 66 73 74 72

286 V Perez (Fra) 71 74 72 69, L Scotto (Ita) 70 69 71 76, T Pieters (Bel) 66 71 74 75

287 R O’Donovan (Ire) 74 69 73 71, E Amacher (Sui) 73 71 73 70, F Daux (Fra) 72 70 71 74, G Eason (Eng) 71 73 73 70, A Saddier (Fra) 69 69 69 80, M Rottluff (Ger) 68 72 74 73, J Shufflebotham (Wal) 68 69 73 77

288 S William Fernandez (Esp) 75 67 73 73, T Gornik (Slo) 71 72 71 74, N Kimsey (Eng) 71 69 71 77, P Westermann (Ger) 69 70 74 75, M Boesmans (Bel) 68 75 72 73, M Saunders (Eng) 68 72 71 77

289 C Pigem (Esp) 72 73 70 74, D Huizing (Ned) 70 71 76 72, M Rohrig (Ger) 69 76 72 72

290 A Dunbar (Ire) 76 64 71 79, H Rouillon (Fra) 70 73 71 76

291 P Shields (Sco) 74 69 75 73, P Angles (Esp) 71 75 72 73, S Crichton (Sco) 71 74 71 75, A Ferrer (Esp) 68 75 73 75

292 B Soutar (Sco) 74 69 74 75, P Dunne (Ire) 73 72 73 74, P Barjon (Fra) 69 72 77 74

293 K Ventura (Nor) 76 67 68 82, G Lenehan (Ire) 70 74 71 78, F Zucchetti (Ita) 70 73 71 79, B Rusch (Sui) 70 72 74 77

294 J Rutherford (Eng) 72 74 72 76, J White (Sco) 71 71 76 76, B Hellgren (Swe) 70 74 72 78

295 S Soderberg (Swe) 73 72 72 78

297 A Cohen (Isr) 76 70 72 79, E Sogaard (Den) 72 74 71 80, N Carlsson (Swe) 71 70 70 86

298 G Schoeb (Fra) 75 75 67 81

301 V Henum (Den) 73 69 75 84