Rowan Lester was disappointed to lose but still proud of his runner up finish in the British Boys Amateur Championship at Prestwick.
The 18-year old from Hermitage lost by one hole to Sweden’s Oskar Bergqvist in a titanic 36-hole final final played in winds gusting up to 50mph.
“Naturally I am quite disappointed to have lost but I only lost by a hole if you think about it, so I’m happy with the week," said Lester, who was hoping to become the fifth Irish champion following wins for Jimmy Bruen (1936), John Glover (1950), Ronan Rafferty (1979) and Leslie Walker (1986).
“I finished tied third in the stroke play which is big for me as well. Getting through to the final and beating some big guys along the way is a great achievement.
“I stuck in there, I knew that two holes down could quickly change if I just played well. I got a few good pars and made some bogeys and in the end whoever got the most pars was going to win the match.”
Bergqvist became the first Swede to win the Boys Amateur since Leif Westerberg at Royal Mid-Surrey in 1992.
Strong winds buffeted the Ayrshire links for the duration of the final creating testing conditions for both competitors.
In the morning round Bergqvist was the quickest to adapt and had gained a two hole advantage over his Irish opponent by the time the pair reached the seventh tee as both players struggled in wind gusts reaching 50mph.
Bergqvist played a confident back nine posting a birdie to win the 12th hole and when Lester three-putted on the 13th the Swede moved three holes ahead.
After losing the 15th and the 17th with bogeys the 17-year-old recovered with a strong birdie on the 18th hole to close out the morning session two holes ahead of the Irishman.
The tables began to turn after lunch as Lester found his form. After falling three holes behind on the 19th hole, he won the 22nd to cut the lead to two and then posted a string of steady pars. When Bergqvist couldn’t hole a 15-foot chip to save par on the 25th hole, the match returned to all square for the first time since the morning’s third hole.
On the 28th hole, Lester made a brilliant up-and-down from the rough that saw him tap-in for a bogey. Bergqvist lipped out his six-foot uphill putt for his second double bogey of the afternoon to lose the hole and give Lester the lead for the first time in the final.
Bergqvist bounced back on the next hole to take the match back to all square but on the 30th hole Lester chipped to three feet to re-take the lead. Bergqvist recovered once again to win the next hole.
The turning point in the match came on the par-four 35th hole when Bergqvist played three excellent shots for birdie and Lester laid up to avoid the cavernous Sahara bunker on Prestwick’s famous 17th hole before missing his putt to save par.
With Bergqvist one ahead Lester was unable to find the birdie he needed on the last hole to keep the match alive and the Swede closed out the match as the 2014 champion.
“I felt this was my game today, Bergqvist said. "I putted pretty badly but the whole time I felt that I was going to win and in the end I did so I’m very happy.
“Rowan put in some unbelievable pars and made a couple of up-and-downs. I was kind of confused because I just couldn’t make the shots I know I can make. I was battling.
“To win means a lot to me, it’s a very big step for me in golf and it has given me a lot of confidence about my game.
“I think it’s a really good achievement for golf in Sweden to have a Swedish player win such an important tournament. Amateur golf is so big here in the UK so to become the Boys Amateur Champion here is very good.”
Bergqvist, who finished tied for ninth place in last week’s European Amateur Championship at the Duke’s Course near St Andrews, followed in the footsteps of players such as José María Olazábal and Sergio Garcia in winning the Boys Amateur Championship and has earned a place in the 2015 Amateur Championship at Carnoustie.
The Peter Garner Bowl, which is awarded to the player in the under-17 age group that progresses furthest in the championship, was awarded to Norway’s Kristoffer Reitan who reached the Quarter Final, where he lost to Lester.
The 2015 Boys Amateur Championship will be played from 11-16 August at Royal Birkdale and Southport & Ainsdale.
For the full scoring details from the Final visit Championships.Randa.Org.