James Byrne has a chance to become the first Scot to win the Amateur Championship on home soil since Stuart Wilson won at St Andrews in 2004. He’ll face Korea’s Jin Jeong, who becomes the first Asian player to reach the final in the event's history. The winner will become the 2010 Amateur Champion, receiving an exemption into the 150th Anniversary Open Championship and a Masters Tournament invitation.
In the morning quarter-finals, Byrne overcame France’s Edouard Espana 2&1 in a tight encounter, before commencing a fiercely-contested semi-final with Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup star Chris Paisley, which was followed by well over 200 spectators. The Englishman took an early lead after Byrne, 21, failed to make par at the 213-yard, par-three fourth.
That would be the greatest advantage the Englishman would enjoy over the Arizona State University senior. The Banchory man got back on level terms with a 20-foot birdie putt at the eighth, then developed a two-hole lead courtesy of wins at the 10th and 13th holes. Four consecutive halves in par followed, the last of those ensuring his second 2&1 victory of the day.
“It would be absolutely brilliant to win. I played in the Amateur down south last year and saw the massive crowds following Tommy [Fleetwood] so hopefully it will be the same,” Byrne said. “It would be good to win it for them.
“This is the highlight of my summer. I’ve been gearing towards this tournament and to have all the hard work pay off would be excellent,” he added.
“I am disappointed to be beaten,” said Paisley, who had defeated Italy’s Andrea Pavan earlier in the day. “But I don’t mind as much when it’s by a player as good as James. He played some quality shots today and deserved to win.”
Jeong, meanwhile, was rarely troubled in both his quarter and semi-final matches. A comfortable 3&2 victory over Ulsterman Paul Cutler in the morning, which was rounded off by an eagle-two on the 443-yard, par-four 15th, preceded a dominating triumph against Matthew Nixon of England.
The 20-year-old got off to the perfect start, winning the first two holes with a par four and a birdie three respectively. Nixon won the fourth to reduce the deficit to one, but Jeong would take four of the next six to build a five-hole advantage by the 10th. The 2010 Riversdale Cup Champion maintained that margin, winning the match 5&4.
“I’ve been thinking about winning this tournament for a long time,” said Jeong, who plays off a plus five handicap. I’ve been dreaming about The Open since I started playing golf and, about two years ago, I realised that if I win the Amateur, I would get to play in The Open.
“I couldn’t get in back then because I wasn’t good enough, but I’ve won a couple of national tournaments, and now I’m in the final.”
Defeated Nixon, the 2006 Boys Amateur Champion, said: “I am not too disheartened. I’m more than happy to be here and get into the last four.”
The 36-hole final will take place at Muirfield, East Lothian, tomorrow. The first round gets underway at 8.30am, with the second due to commence at 1.00pm.
The winner of the final will receive an exemption into the 150th Anniversary Open Championship and a 2011 Masters Tournament invitation.
Entry to the course is free and car parking is available.
Live text commentary of the final will be available on RandA.org.