South African Christo Lamprecht defeated Ronan Kleu from Switzerland in a thrilling contest to win The 128th Amateur Championship at Hillside.
In front of large crowds on a glorious day, the 22-year-old claimed a 3&2 victory in an exciting 36-hole Final to lift one of the most prestigious trophies in the amateur game.
From an international field of 288 players representing 38 countries, Lamprecht became the third South African winner in the last six years after Jovan Rebula in 2018 and Aldrich Potgieter last year.
“I’m over the moon. I haven’t won something big in a long time and it’s one to definitely win for sure. I’m ecstatic. I cannot kind of comprehend my feelings right now.
“I tried to stay in my zone the last couple of holes so much. Ronan was playing good and fighting back hard. It hasn’t sunk in yet but it feels good. I’m guessing South Africans like playing links golf. We kind of like being creative so I guess that flowed over into this Championship. It’s always nice to be part of history with South Africa and enrich it.”
Lamprecht – the highest-ranked player in the field at sixth on the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®) and a prodigious ball striker from his 6ft 8in frame – squeezed into the top-64 and ties for the match play stages before excelling in the knock-out format.
By virtue of his victory, Lamprecht secured exemptions into The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool next month, the US Open, and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament in 2024. He also joins a Championship roll of honour which includes Bobby Jones, Sir Michael Bonallack, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia.
It was also a notable day for his caddie and International Arnold Palmer Cup teammate, Christiaan Maas, who was on the bag for Potgieter when he won at Royal Lytham & St Annes 12 months ago.
“It’s amazing to get into The Open. It’s probably the biggest kind of milestone I put on myself this year before I turn pro is just to get myself in a major and get that experience. To get into three is pretty amazing. But right now I’m going to go and celebrate as much as I can.”
Kleu was aiming to become the first Swiss player to win The Amateur and the 23-year-old – who tied second in stroke play qualifying – made three late birdies to push Lamprecht to the 34th hole.
In the morning action, Lamprecht’s opening birdie gave him the advantage. But Kleu, placed 376th in the world rankings, settled down and achieved three birdies in a row from the 6th to go one up. With his precision iron play, the Swiss national team member also birdied the 9th to move two ahead after nine holes.
In a see-saw contest, Kleu bogeyed the 10th and 11th – with Lamprecht also eagling the 11th – as the match returned to all square. Lamprecht, a first team All-American for Georgia Tech with eight top-ten finishes in the 2022-2023 season, then seized control. Aided by his long driving, he birdied five of the last seven holes – including four in a row from the 15th. However, Kleu closed with two birdies of his own to stay in touch at only two down at the halfway stage.
Lamprecht, who was six-under-par for the morning’s 18 holes, had played 21 more match play holes this week than Kleu but he showed no signs of tiredness to take the 19th after Kleu’s bogey to go three up.
It stayed that way until the 24th when the Swiss struck it close to reduce the deficit. A brilliant pitch from the dunes from Lamprecht restored his advantage at the 27th. The 2017 South African Amateur winner made another decisive move at the short 28th, holing from 15 feet for back-to-back birdies to go four up.
Kleu missed an opportunity at the par-5 29th, but did capitalise at both the 30th and 31st to suddenly reduce the gap to two holes once more. There was then incredible drama at the 32nd as the Swiss made a third straight birdie from 25 feet after slicing his drive into rough – but it was a birdie matched by a cool Lamprecht from six feet. His fifth birdie in the afternoon at the 33rd took him to three up and a short par putt at the 34th sealed his triumph.
Lamprecht also became the third player to win The Amateur at Hillside after Jay Sigel in 1979 and Bryden Macpherson in 2011. The north-west venue continued its pedigree of hosting championships. One of many fine links courses on ‘England’s Golf Coast’, it frequently stages Final Qualifying for The Open and in 2022 held the Cazoo Classic, a DP World Tour event.