Scott Gregory dodged a bullet after Saunton’s parched dunes were pelted by torrential rain that fell overnight on the North Devon links – and again as the Corhampton ace was on the putting green short before his 8.30 tee time in the English Amateur final.
The 19-year-old may have had the underdog status playing against England international Nick Marsh from Huddersfield, but after some understandable nerves as the rain held off, Gregory recovered from a bogey at the first to birdie the par five second.
That four was matched by the Yorkshireman but the pair were all square again as Gregory – hoping to emulate 16-year-old Harry Ellis’ victory two years ago at Silloth-on-Solway – holed from seven feet for a three at the third.
Gregory’s mettle was quickly tested as Marsh rattled off birdies at the sixth, seventh and eighth to turn the screw.
The first two putts were from 15 and 10 feet respectively, but even when Gregory hit his approach to just 18 inches on the eighth, Marsh rolled in another 15-footer for a half to stay two up.
The Hampshire ace is looking for his first major victory after leading the Hampshire Hog at North Hants in April, before the heavens opened to deny him a win, and having been the halfway leader in The Berkshire Trophy five weeks ago.
And he showed his class by converting his fourth birdie of the morning from six feet to cut the deficit to one.
With the morning weather providing a mixture of sunshine and showers, every hole on the back nine was halved as the match turned into a putting contest.
There was little to choose between them off the tee, although Marsh didn’t always find the short grass.
But in the homeward stretch Marsh should have reinforced his advantage.
At the par-four 15th, Gregory went long with his approach into rough behind the green.
His chip finished short and he took two more to get down.
Marsh, on the green for two, left his birdie putt four feet short and then saw his winning par effort lip out.
He had another chance at the par-four 16 when Gregory missed the green right and took two more to get down.
Marsh was again on the putting surface for two but once again his putt stayed above ground.
Then at the short 17th, March was presented with another chance when Gregory bunkered his tee shot.
The Hampshire man came out long and again took bogey then was let off the hook as Marsh took three from short of the green.
Both agreed a half at 18 after they left long putts around three feet short.
So Marsh stayed ahead at lunch with everything to play for in the afternoon.