The Amateur

Bairstow and Potgieter Set Up Amateur Final

Englishman Sam Bairstow and Aldrich Potgieter from South Africa will contest the Final of The 127th Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes tomorrow.

The R&A
17 Jun 22
3 mins

Bairstow, 23, convincingly came through an all-English semi-final against John Gough by 5&4 to seal his place in the 36-hole showdown, while teenager Potgieter, 17, edged out Irishman Alex Maguire 3&1.

As well as winning one of the most prestigious titles in the amateur game, the victor tomorrow can look forward to competing in The 150th Open at St Andrews next month, the 2023 US Open and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament. Sheffield native Bairstow impressively won six holes in a row from the 4th, thanks to three birdies and errors from his opponent, to put the left-hander in full control. Beaconsfield’s Gough had only lost one of his previous 24 match play ties and won the Lytham Trophy over the Lancashire links in May, but his superb run came to a halt as the Hallowes member triumphed.

Open chance again

Bairstow came through Final Qualifying at St Annes Old Links to reach The 149th Open at Royal St George’s last year and is now just one match away from a quick return trip to golf’s oldest championship. “I played pretty solid and I don't think John had his best game which is unfortunate because it would have been a great match if we both did,” he said. “I'm the highest ranked Great Britain and Ireland player this week (19th on WAGR®) but I’m pretty calm. Obviously certain situations like the first tee or whatever, coming down the last, you feel a bit nervous but I find if you put on a brave face it's a lot easier to manage them. “I don't think I'll try to think about The Open until tomorrow. I can't think about that because otherwise I'm just not going to concentrate on my game. I’ve just got to keep on doing what I'm doing.”

Strong support

In windier afternoon conditions in front of large crowds, Potgieter eased to a three-up lead after eight holes against Maguire. But the Laytown & Bettystown player, winner of the East of Ireland Amateur last week, rallied after bogeys from the South African at the 9th and 11th. Potgieter, who has won three times in his homeland this year at junior level, stayed strong to close it out on the 17th. There have only been two previous winners of The Amateur Championship from South Africa – Jovan Rebula at Royal Aberdeen in 2018 and Bobby Cole at Carnoustie in 1966 – as Potgieter seeks to join an exclusive group. “It’s my first time in the UK,” admitted Potgieter, world-ranked 140th. “I think I've got the wind factor nailed down. It took a few rounds to get know how to hit the shots around the greens but it’s coming along nicely now.

Youthful drive

“I’m young but I’ve played a few events in Australia and over in South Africa as well, and match play events. I've done well in those events. With this coming around, I’ve just been doing the same as I've done in previous tournaments. You just keep going, play your game. “The prizes tomorrow are always sitting in the back of your mind. I’m looking forward to it. If I get the win, I’m playing in the biggest events in the world. Yeah, really looking forward to it. “I moved to Australia when I was eight-years-old and lived there for nine years, and then recently moved back to South Africa.” In the quarter-finals, Bairstow finished with a flourish to knock out Ludvig Åberg. The Swede – the third best player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®) – found problems off the tee on the final two holes, but Bairstow still holed a 50-foot putt on the 17th for par and rolled in another 15-footer on the 18th for birdie to secure a two-hole success and go further than his last-eight appearance at Nairn last year. Gough was two down after six holes to Irishman Peter O’Keeffe, 40, in their last-eight tie but again displayed the battling qualities that have underpinned his efforts this week. Gough replied with birdies at the 8th and 9th and stayed strong on the back nine, finishing with birdies on the 16th and 17th for a 2&1 triumph.

Roll of honour

Maguire had a tight quarter-final with Australian Max Charles, with never more than one hole in it. Charles won the 14th to go one up but he followed it with three straight bogeys as Maguire came through on the 17th 2&1. Potgieter was a model of consistency as he reeled off pars to secure a five-up lead after 12 holes as his opponent, German Laurenz Schiergen, struggled. Schiergen replied with birdies on the 13th and 16th but Potgieter closed out a 2&1 win. The finalists will now seek to join an Amateur Championship roll of honour that includes José María Olazábal, Sergio Garcia, Matteo Manassero and Romain Langasque. The 127th Amateur Championship is open to spectators with tickets available here or for purchase on the gate. The R&A provided live broadcast coverage of the quarter-finals and semi-finals today and will do so again tomorrow for the 36-hole Final. This can be watched on The R&A’s website as well as its YouTube channel.