Joe Long Wins All-English Amateur Championship Final at Royal Birkdale
In a final that was coined the Battle of Bristol, Gloucestershire's Joe Long defeated his team-mate Joe Harvey to win the Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale, battling over 36 holes for the historic title.
In the end, Long holed a birdie putt on the 33rd hole to make sure of a deserved 4&3 win and become the 51st English winner of the Amateur.
As well as the prestige, the trophy and the gold medal there are additional prizes in the shape of invites to three major championships in 2021.
Long can now look forward to teeing it up in the Masters at Augusta next April, in the US Open at Torrey Pines in June and the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s in July.
“Wow, when you say all the exemptions. It still hasn’t hit me,” said Long with a smile.
“It’s going to be incredible. This is what I have worked hard for since I started playing golf. I really stuck in there and battled, I am just so chuffed with it really.
“I played Royal St George’s maybe four years ago in the South East Links and I remember it being a tough track. So that is going to be a good battle, it’s just going to be awesome and I am going to enjoy the experience of playing in The Open. It’s just going to be huge.”
Long led by two holes after the morning round and refused to let his grip on the match slip in what was the 125th staging of the event first played for back in 1895.
“I was never behind and just stuck at it,” admitted Long, a member at Lansdown Golf Club.
“I have been behind in a lot of matches before and still turned it around but it is always hard when you are up against it. So it was nice to be in control. I thought to myself not to do anything stupid.
“It sounds amazing, 125th Amateur Champion has quite a nice ring to it. I was feeling nervous, we both were.
“My game plan was just to try and stick in the present as much as I could, forget about all the rewards and benefits that come with winning. I hit a few ropey shots in the first round, but I started to tee my driver down and get it back in play.
“I felt like I was pretty solid overall. This afternoon again I was hitting driver well and holed a few nice putts as well which was cool. I just had it in play all the time and felt in control."
Long becomes the first Englishman since Harry Ellis in 2017 to win the championship.
For the 23-year-old Bristolian the victory is a major landmark in his fledgling career.
This final was the first all-English affair since Graeme Storm beat Aran Wainwright at Royal Portrush in 1999.
After 11 holes of the first round, Long was three up, although Harvey had pegged that back to two by the 18th.
In the afternoon, Harvey took the opening hole to reduce the deficit to one, but once again Long simply stepped on the gas to win the third with a par and never look back.
Having moved to 4-up after 29 holes, the gap was to much for Harvey to claw back. The match ended with both men making birdie on the 33rd hole and Long taking the applause for a 4&3 victory.
“Goosebumps really, as soon I holed it, it all hit me,” confessed Long.
“I am just so pleased and can’t believe it really, it’s all so surreal.”
Long – set to leap up from his current position of 102 in the world amateur rankings – admitted it was tough on Harvey to lose out. He added: “It’s really good and hard at the same time because we both wanted to do well.
“He is a really good mate and when I win it is hard to see him lose. But it is all part of the sport we play and the match was played in great spirit, we enjoyed it out there.”
It was a day of disappointment for Harvey, but the 23-year-old has plenty of positives to take from his week.
He said: “If you had said at the beginning of the week that I would be in the final I don’t think I would have believed you. I am really chuffed with the way I have played all week.
“I would like to say congratulations to Joe. He played great today.
“It was quite relaxing having one of my good mates out there with me. But we were both out there to win so between shots we would have a little bit of a chat but coming up to our shots we were in the zone.
“I was so happy for Joe when he holed that putt but as a golfer, I was gutted that my chance to win had come to an end. I am so tired after a long week, so my emotions are a bit all over the place.”
It was a memorable final for Gloucestershire, with Max Powell, Gloucestershire’s Junior Organiser, reflecting: “We’ve watched these boys continuously grow their game over the years so for both players to make the final together is a proud moment for our county. They are both fantastic golfers and we’re very excited for their futures.”
Joe’s win comes exactly four weeks after fellow Gloucestershire player, 21-year-old Jack Cope (The Players Club, Bristol) won the 2020 English Men’s Amateur Championship, and means that both the English and the Amateur titles are held by players from the Gloucestershire Golf Union, a first in its’ history.
Dave Hares, coaching chairman, said: “Something special has happened for golf in Gloucestershire this year. We have seen the results of commitment and dedication to the game from these players. The talent pool in our region is exciting and as a union we are extremely passionate about supporting and developing that talent.”
To find out more about county level opportunities with Gloucestershire Golf Union visit: https://www.gloucestershiregolfunion.co.uk/.
Image Credit: The R&A
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)