Englishman Ashley Chesters became the first player to claim back-to-back International European Amateur Championship titles as West Waterford's Gary Hurley tied for second ver the breezy Duke’s Course in St Andrews.
Chesters secured and a return trip to The Open Championship over the Old Course at St Andrews next year, providing he does not turn professional, when he closed with rounds of 69 and 72 to win by three shots on two under par.
The 24-year-old, who was the first English player to win the European title since 2004 when he triumphed at El Prat in Spain 12 months ago, was one of 54 players to return to the course at 7am on Saturday morning to complete their third rounds after Friday’s weather delay due to rain, thunder and lightning.
Chesters finished his remaining 12 holes and posted a fine two-under-par 69 to hit the front on three under par for a three-stroke lead.
Hurley could make just two birdies in third round 76 and trailed Chester by four shots on one over with a round to go.
He rallied to card a level par 71 in the afternoon with a bogey at the 18th leaving him tied for second with Germany's Max Roehrig on one-over 285.
Despite gusts of wind that reached 30 mph at times, Chesters carded a a closing 72, holding off the challenge of Roehrig, Hurley and Italian Enrico Di Nitto, who shot 73 to finish fourth on two over.
The champion said he “hardly hit a bad shot” over the opening 16 holes of his final round, securing a five-shot lead with two holes to play thanks to birdies at the 15th and 16th.
However, he four-putted the par-3 17th for a double bogey, before making bogey on the last to see his winning margin cut to three
If he wants to take up his place in The Open next year, Chesters must remain amateur and he faces a difficult decision having intended to go to Qualifying School next month.
“I’m going to have to have a think,” said Chesters. “The Open at St Andrews would be hard to turn down, and it’s one of my favourite courses. I enjoyed Hoylake so much, as The Open is special. I’ve had worse problems (to think about).”
Ballymena's Dermot McElroy closed with a pair of 74s to share ninth place on five over 289 with Chris Selfridge tied 22nd, Jack Hume tied 29th, Rory McNamara and Richard Bridges tied 41st, Gavin Moynihan 45th and Robin Dawson 60th
European Amateur Championship, Duke's Course, St Andrews (par 71)
- 1 CHESTERS, Ashley Hawkstone Park -2 69 72 69 72 282
- T2 HURLEY, Gary WestWaterford/NUIM +1 66 72 76 71 285
- T9 MCELROY, Dermot Ballymena+5 70 71 74 74 289
- T22 SELFRIDGE, Chris Moyola Park +8 75 67 73 77 292
- T29 HUME, Jack Naas +9 72 72 76 73 293
- T41 MCNAMARA, Rory +12 77 71 74 74 296
- T41 BRIDGES, Richard Stackstown Golf Club +12 72 75 72 77 296
- T45 MOYNIHAN, Gavin The Island +13 77 68 77 75 297
- T60 DAWSON, Robin Faithlegg +16 74 75 72 79 300
- GREHAN, Stuart Tullamore GC +13 82 72 72 226
- SHARVIN, Cormac Ardglass Golf Club +13 73 77 76 226
- MCBRIDE, Paul The Island +14 80 71 76 227
- DUNNE, Paul Greystones +17 76 80 74 230
- LENEHAN, Geoff Portmarnock Golf Club +18 79 74 78 231