It will be an all Joe affair at The 125th Amateur Championship as the English duo of Joe Harvey and Joe Long are set for a showdown in tomorrow’s 36-hole final at Royal Birkdale.
Harvey, 23, progressed to the final after eliminating Ireland’s Mark Power 3&2 in the semi-final having advanced past Victor H. Sidal Svendsen of Denmark in the quarter-final 4&3.
Long, 23, was equally impressive in the last four, defeating Englishman Jake Bolton 2&1 after earlier jettisoning the hopes of another Englishman Barclay Brown in a convincing 6&5 victory.
Harvey, who is 897th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®) and Joe Long, who is 102nd on the WAGR®, have teed up an all-England final for the first time since 1999 when Graeme Storm defeated Aran Wainwright 7&6 at Royal County Down.
Usually practice partners at The Kendleshire, the pair will now go head-to-head over 36 holes to become the first English champion since Harry Ellis triumphed at Royal St George’s in 2017.
Ahead of the biggest opportunity in their amateur careers, the winner secures exemptions into The 149th Open at Royal St George’s next year and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament and an exemption into the US Open.
Harvey was in control of his tie with Power from the outset and was four-up after 11 holes. But as he missed the green at the par-3 12th and lost the hole with a bogey four, it looked like the door was ajar for the Irishman to mount a comeback.
A birdie at the 13th returned Harvey to his four-hole advantage; however it took until the 16th hole for the Englishman to close out the match, with an up and-down par from the left greenside bunker, after he left winning putts short on both the 14th and 15th holes.
He said, “It’s just unbelievable. I’m overwhelmed with emotion right now. I played great out there today. He (Power) had a go at the end when I went four up, and I nearly messed it up. But I got a good up and down on 16 to halve the hole and win.
“Mark is a great guy, it’s the first time I’ve met him. All the lads speak about how good he is. Obviously, he has been in form so I knew I was going to have to play well. I know I am capable of playing good golf and making birdies, so I went out there with that attitude and it paid off.
“By far, this is the greatest achievement of my golfing career, by a good stretch. I know I have still got 36 holes tomorrow and it’s going to be a massive grind but I’m capable of winning, so I’ve just got to go out there and play well and make birdies.
“It’s awesome to be an all-English final. I know Joe well. Because there are going to be no spectators, it’s probably going to be the most relaxed Amateur final. Everyone knows what is on the line so it’s going to be a tough game. It will just be amazing. I’m just looking forward to it. I can’t wait.”
Long was evenly matched with Bolton early on before his opponent took the first advantage going one-up with a birdie at the 4th. A bogey to follow returned the match to all square before Bolton conceded the 6th to see Long go one-up for the first time in the match, a lead he didn’t relinquish for the remainder of the tie.
Keeping his composure, Long closed out the match on the 17th hole with a par after Bolton failed to roll in his seven-foot birdie putt.
Long said, “I’m over the moon with it. I just stayed in the present, all day, all week with it and tried to make that my goal. And now I’m in the final – it’s just crazy really.
“Jake was playing quite nicely, he had a birdie putt on the 4th and I just kept it in play. I missed a few putts but I didn’t let that get to me because I committed to the shot. I just kept on trying to hit it in the fairway and trying to make pars. That was the main thing. I had a few birdie chances which I missed but, overall, I just stuck with it really. I battled hard. That’s what you have to do.”
On the winning hole, Long added, “I was first on the tee so I knew I just had to get a drive away. I hit a pretty good tee shot just on the right fairway. I laid up, I had quite a long shot in, had about a 60-yard pitch that I didn’t get to the back. I hit a good shot but the wind was cold out there and it didn’t travel as far as it thought and then I hit a good pace putt from gimme range. Jake just missed his seven-footer for birdie, so I was expecting him to hole it but that’s match play for you.
“A couple of weeks ago we (Long and Harvey) were actually just playing in a midweek medal together. So, we’ve known each other for a while and we are really good mates. This is going to be played in great spirits and we’ve got to both go out there and enjoy it really. Enjoy the experience and enjoy the challenge.
“There’s just you, your playing partner, the ref and a few cameras out there so it doesn’t actually feel as big as it actually is but it doesn’t change anything. We’ve just still got to go out there and just play as well as we can really.”
Earlier in the quarter-finals, Power came through after defeating Callan Barrow 3&1 whilst Bolton earned his berth in the semi-final by defeating Hamish Brown of Denmark by two holes.
The 36-hole final takes place from 8.30am tomorrow, as Harvey and Long seek to emulate last year’s champion, James Sugrue from Ireland. Other past champions include major winners José María Olazábal and Sergio Garcia, the current Great Britain and Ireland men’s team captain Stuart Wilson and, more recently, Matteo Manassero and Romain Langasque.
Live scoring, news and video can be followed at www.RandA.org as well as on The R&A’s social media platforms.