England’s Alfie Plant won a dramatic three way play-off with a birdie on the fifth extra hole to become the European Amateur Champion at Walton Heath Golf Club – and book his place in The Open.
“It’s going to take a few days to sink in, but this couldn’t have happened at a better place. It’s brilliant,” said Plant, who saw off the challenge of defending champion Luca Cianchetti and Lorenzo Scalise, both from Italy.
Plant was loudly cheered off the green by a large gallery which included the sizeable contingent of Team Alfie – the band of family and friends who enthusiastically follow the 24-year-old.
“I’ve got great family support,” said Plant, who revealed his great grandmother passed away at the start of this week. “This is a good way to put a smile back on everyone’s faces.”
Plant, from Sundridge Park, Kent, produced two crucial birdies to secure his victory. The first was on the 18th in regulation play, and he set it up with an eight iron approach which finished 3ft from the hole. The birdie three took his score to 15-under and, after Scalise and Cianchetti both finished with bogeys, it put him in the play-off.
The trio set off on a circuit of holes one, two and 18 which left Plant and Scalise deadlocked on level par, while Cianchetti, who was one over, was eliminated.
The pair returned to the first and Plant almost snatched the win when his 25ft birdie attempt popped in and out of the hole. But his par was matched by Scalise and they marched on to the second – where the Englishman scored that other crucial birdie, rolling in a 12ft putt for victory.
“It’s been a roller coaster of a year,” said Plant, who won the 2016 Lytham Trophy and secured England’s silver medal at the world championships, but has recently endured a run of disappointing results. “You’ve got to take the highs and the lows and I know I’ve been playing really good golf so it was only a matter of time.”
The championship has been intensely close from the first day – with a play-off confidently predicted by many of the spectators – and the competitors guaranteed the excitement continued throughout the final round,
A host of players made a charge up the leaderboard. Ireland’s John-Ross Galbraith returned 65, Jack Singh Brar (Remedy Oak) shot 66 and Germany’s Matthias Schmid 67 to all finish on 12-under. Matthew Jordan (Royal Liverpool) finished on 13-under with his 66, while Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre and Spain’s Victor Pastor also shot 66 and raised the bar with totals of 14-under.
Out on the course, Plant, Scalise and Cianchetti were responding to the scoreboard challenge with superb golf, trading birdies and swopping the lead.
Cianchetti made a break with an eagle three on 14 and a birdie on 15 to get to 16-under. Bur Scalise quickly joined him with an eagle three on 16. Plant, meanwhile, was trailing the Italian pair by two - but it all changed on the 18th where the scores were levelled.
Plant’s victory earns him a place in The Open at Royal Birkdale from July 20-23 – and saves him an early outing at final qualifying on Tuesday where he had a start time of 6.45am. He will be joined in the field by Luca Cianchetti who takes his place as a result of his 2016 win in the European Amateur.