Neil faces Lombard in the Amateur Championship Final
Scotland will face South Africa in the final of the 119th Amateur Championship for the first time in 17 years. Blairgowrie’s Bradley Neil meets South African Zander Lombard in tomorrow’s 36-hole final at Royal Portrush.
Neil defeated fellow Scot Conner Syme 2&1 in the semi-final while Lombard survived a tight battle with Southport & Ainsdale’s Sean Towndrow. The 19-year-old from Pretoria won by one hole.
Neil immediately called his mother Amanda after winning. Both were struggling to cope with his achievement. “We got pretty emotional,” Neil said. “We both know what this could do. I think Zander knows the same. This is life changing. I never thought I’d be in the final. The doors it can open and the events it can get you into are just incredible.”
A run of four bogeys in five holes from the 8th hole by Syme let Neil take control of the match and, although he lost the 13th and the 15th, he was able to see it out with pars at the 16th and 17th.
The 18-year-old is having the best season of his life with seven top ten finishes, including three runner-ups and two third places. His latest runner-up finish came in a play-off loss at the recent St Andrews Links Trophy and he has climbed to 38th on the World Amateur Golf RankingTM.
The winner will have the opportunity to play in The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and next year’s US Open at Chambers Bay and traditionally receives an invitation to the Masters.
“You think about that coming into the week and every day,” admitted Neil. “I definitely thought about it more than once today. It’s hard to put something like that to the back of your mind. You have to try to use it as motivation to win each match.
“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I’m not going to shy away from the occasion. I’m going to play the golf I have been playing the last few days. I know he’s going to want to win just as badly as me but if he’s going to beat me it’s not going to be easy. I believe this is my time. My confidence is there, my game’s there. I just need to bring it on the day.”
Lombard is currently ranked 59th on the World Amateur Golf RankingTM but has been as low as 48th. He won the recent KwaZulu-Natal Amateur Championship and is in good form.
After taking an early lead after two holes against Towndrow, Lombard found himself two down after seven. He won the eighth and ninth holes, however, and then took the 12th and 14th to give himself a cushion over the last few holes.
“It was a tight match but you expect that at this level” Lombard said. “It’s always going to be the one who makes the least mistakes.”
As with Neil, he was struggling to come to terms with the enormity of the achievement. “It’s the goal every amateur wants – to get to the final and have a chance to win The Amateur. I don’t think it’s hit me yet but it’s definitely a nice feeling to know I have beaten pretty much the best out there. Being in the final is just amazing.”
Lombard is bidding to become the second South African winner since Bobby Coles in 1966. He is the first South African in the final since Trevor Immelman lost to Scot Craig Watson at Royal St George’s in 1997.
Neil is the third Scot to reach the final in the last five years and is hoping to emulate Watson and Stuart Wilson. The latter defeated Lee Corfield at St Andrews in 2004 and was the last Scot to lift the Amateur Championship trophy.
For scoring from the final visit championships.randa.org.