2002: Pilling finds his place at Carnoustie
There have been many surprise winners of the British Boys Amateur Championship, but few as surprising as Englishman Mark Pilling.
Pilling, from Astbury Golf Club in Cheshire, England, arrived in Carnoustie as a virtual unknown, but left with his name on the most prestigious trophy in boys’ golf.
Pilling, 17, survived eight matches over the six-day competition, culminating with a victory over 17-year-old Rhys Davies on the first extra hole after a grueling 36-hole final Aug. 17 over one of the toughest course in the British Isles.
Conditions at Carnoustie were benign for most of the week, as sunshine and little wind made for excellent scoring conditions. That all changed for the final.
A strong wind blew in from the North Sea Saturday, making club selection difficult. Both players struggled over the first 18 holes. Davies shot 10-over 82, but managed to end the first session all square when Pilling shot 80.
The wind abated slightly in the after-noon. Pilling was 4 over for his 19 holes, while Davies was 3 over. Pilling looked like a runaway winner when he went 3 up after nine holes.
However, he lost Nos. 10 and 11 when he bogeyed both, then lost the 12th when Davies holed a slick 20-foot birdie putt to even the match.
The pair traded holes at Nos. 14 and 15, then Pilling went 1 up with a par at the 245-yard, par-3 16th. Both players made pars at the treacherous 17th.
Unfortunately for Pilling, his tee shot on No. 18 ended up in the Barrie Burn, a stream that runs down the left side of the fairway before crossing in front of the green.
“The only thing I told myself on the 18th tee was, ‘Don’t put it in the burn left,’ ” Pilling said.
Pilling dropped under penalty, then hit his third shot out of bounds but it hit a spectator and bounced back into play. He had a chance to win the match when Davies missed his 12-foot par putt. However, Pilling’s 8-foot bogey putt shaved the hole to force extra holes.
Pilling had relied on his putting all week to get him through matches, and it ultimately sealed the win for him. His approach shot to the first hole ended up on the fringe 40 feet away, but Pilling rolled his birdie putt within inches. He took the trophy when Davies failed to get up-and-down from the rough right of the green.
“It’s been a long week,” Pilling said. “This is most unexpected. I think the key this week was keeping the ball in play and holing a few good putts.”
The victory ended Davies’ unbeaten run in Scotland. The Royal Porthcawl amateur had been unbeaten in 13 matches going into the final, including six victories for his country in the Boys Home Internationals at Blairgowrie, Scotland, the week before.
“I’m not too unhappy,” Davies said. “If you said at the start of the week that I’d be runner-up, I’d have been happy. He just holed more putts than me today, that was all.”