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Vale Resort's Rhys Pugh becomes the first ever Welsh winner of one of the world’s top amateur golf events, won by new PGA champion Rory McIlroy just six years ago
Welsh golf is celebrating an historic One, Two as Rhys Pugh won the European Amateur Championship with James Frazer a close second.
Pugh, who has been a member of the Vale Resort since he was 8 years old, becomes the first ever Welsh winner of one of the world’s top amateur golf events, won by new PGA champion Rory McIlroy six years ago, with third placed Carl Pettersson and Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia also on the roll of honour of former champions.
“This is one of the best ever results for Welsh amateur golf - not just for Rhys joining some incredible names to have won the European title as well as becoming the first Welsh winner, but also for James who came so close to forcing an all-Welsh play-off,” said Golf Union of Wales Director of Performance Ben Waterhouse.
“It really is an incredible achievement against all Europe’s top amateur stars, names which will become well known on the European Tour in years to come.
Pugh, of the Vale Resort, will get an invite to next year’s Open Championship at Muirfield as a result of winning the Chartis Europe sponsored European Amateur Championship at Carton House Golf Club outside Dublin.
He started the final day eight shots off the lead, but a closing round of 66 in windy and difficult conditions on the Montgomerie course lifted him to the top of the leaderboard.
Frazer was one of those still out on the course trying to overhaul Pugh’s total, but his putt on 18 to force a play-off was left agonisingly hanging on the lip of the hole and did not drop.
New Welsh Amateur champion Jason Shufflebotham slipped down the field with a final round of 77 in the tough conditions to end up 10 shots behind Pugh.
"I always thought I could do it. I really like the golf course, it sort of suits me. It's quite long and I've been hitting it a bit further lately. I thought I'd have to shoot 63, 62 to have a chance but it was a little bit windy so it was tougher," said Pugh, the 18-year-old from Pontypridd who studies at East Tennessee in the US.
“It's been my dream to play in the Open Championship since I started golf".
He will do just that at Muirfield next year. Frazer missed out on that prize, but the Pennard player was still delighted to finish second and play his part in Welsh golfing history.
"If someone had said to me at the start of the week that I would finish second on ten-under I'd have bitten their hands off. It's the first time I've made the cut in this event, it's my fourth time playing in it," he said.
"It's been a great week and a Wales one and two".
Carton House has been a great friend to the Welsh, with Craig Smith lifting the Irish Amateur Open title in 2004, Stephen Dodd claiming the European Tour’s Irish Open in 2005 and now Rhys Pugh is added to the list of Welshmen claiming success at the Kildare venue.
Conor Mallaghan, Managing Director at Carton House is looking forward to welcoming Rhys Pugh back to compete as an amateur in next year’s Irish Open "We are absolutley delighted, the Monty showed its teeth a little bit more in the final round and a 66 to win it was a fitting score. We are delighted we got four nice days, the elite of European golf and a really genuine winner, so we're all looking forward to the Irish Open next year".