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Performances Of The Year

by Colin Callander - December 8, 2014

Bradley Neil and Renato Paratore will have a lot to look forward to as they put their feet up ahead of the Christmas break.

Neil can contemplate trips to The Masters and the US Open while success at the recent Q-School means Paratore is about to join friend and compatriot Matteo Manassero on the European Tour.

The 18-year-old Scot and his 17-year-old Italian rival were the two standout performers on this year’s European men’s amateur circuit so it will be a shame they will not be resuming their rivalry next season. Nevertheless, both contributed hugely to an excellent 2015 amateur season here in Europe and it is undoubtedly only a matter of time before the talented Neil follows Paratore into the professional game.

Neil has said that it was only the perks he got from winning the Amateur Championship that have stopped him from making the move already.

“I didn’t want to give up my two major spots or any tour spots I get from being Amateur champ,” he said. “It would be silly to give up the amazing opportunity I have next year … (but) my plan is to turn next year.”

The amateur game will not be quite the same without the Scot and the ultraspeedy Paratore but a look back at the highlights of this year’s European amateur season illustrates there is more than enough talent to take their place. It’s the same in the women’s game where you’d be hard-pushed to separate the five or six players who are currently vying to be considered Europe’s leading amateur.

Here are a few of my thoughts on which players have excelled this season:

EUROPEAN AMATEUR OF THE YEAR (MALE) | BRADLEY NEIL (SCOTLAND)

Neil claimed the biggest title of his career when he beat South African Zander Lombard in the final of this year’s Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush. The 18-year-old from Blairgowrie also lost out to Grant Forrest in a play-off at the St Andrews Links Trophy, finished tied for second at the South African Stroke Play Championship and was third at the Lytham Trophy.

Neil’s contribution to Scotland’s win in the European Nations Cup and GB&I’s victory in the St Andrews Trophy should not be forgotten. In the former, the current world No. 5 finished runner-up in the individual event and then carded a birdie on the second hole of a sudden-death play-off to beat Paratore and give his country its first win in the event since 2008. In the latter, he was undefeated in three starts as GB&I beat Europe for the first time in three attempts.

EUROPEAN AMATEUR OF THE YEAR (FEMALE) | LUNA SOBRÓN (SPAIN)

There are several strong contenders in this category but Sobrón gets the nod ahead of Emily Pedersen, Céline Boutier, Nanna Madsen, Linnea Ström and Noemí Jiménez thanks to her narrow victory against a very strong field at the European Women’s Amateur Championship in Estonia. Sobrón succeeded Pedersen as champion and the Dane also deserves a special mention in this category for her fine win in the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship at Royal St George’s.

BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER OF THE YEAR (MALE) | MARCUS KINHULT (SWEDEN)

Kinhult broke into the world’s top 20 when he began the 2014 season by finishing third behind Paratore at the Portuguese Amateur Championship. He has now moved up to sixth on the world ranking after a string of fine performances helped him win a silver (individual) and a gold (team) medal at the Youth Olympics in China, finish second in the individual event at the European Boys’ Team Championship and fourth at the Lytham Trophy. He also came in 21st behind Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee in the Nordea Masters on the European Tour and represented Europe in both the Jacques Leglise Trophy and the Junior Ryder Cup.

BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER OF THE YEAR (FEMALE) | INDIA CLYBURN (ENGLAND)

Clyburn was one of the stars of the summer in the European amateur game. The 18-year-old from Woodhall Spa won the Scottish Under-21 Open Stroke Play and the English Girls’ before emerging as England’s top scorer as her country won the Girls’ Home Internationals. She went on to lose out to eventual winner Alejandra Pasarín in the semi-finals of the British Girls’ before capping a superb season by claiming two other titles at the Royal Birkdale Scratch Trophy and the Daily Telegraph Junior Championship. She also helped England to victory at the women’s Home Internationals at Aberdovey.

EUROPEAN AMATEUR TEAM OF THE YEAR (MALE) | GB&I ST ANDREWS TROPHY TEAM

Step forward Ashley Chesters, Paul Dunne, Ryan Evans, Grant Forrest, Gary Hurley, Nick Marsh, Bradley Neil, Graeme Robertson and Jamie Savage. GB&I had not won the St Andrews Trophy since 2008 but all that changed when these four Scots, three Englishmen and two Irishmen pulled off a fine 14-10 victory over the Continent of Europe at Barsebäck in Sweden. Plaudits also should go to GB&I’s junior squad, who completed the double by beating their European rivals in the concurrent Jacques Leglise Trophy over the same course.

EUROPEAN AMATEUR TEAM OF THE YEAR (WOMEN) | FRANCE

A strong French squad achieved a notable treble success during 2014. Shannon Aubert, Mathilda Cappeliez and Anyssia Herbaut started the year by teaming up to win the European Nations Cup at Sotogrande and they capped that performance when Aubert, Herbaut, Emma Broze, Anaelle Carnet, Céline Boutier, Alexandra Bonetti and Justine Dreher defeated Finland in the final of the European Ladies’ Team Championship in Slovenia.

Meanwhile, the French juniors suggested these successes would be no flash in the pan by beating Italy in the final of the European Girls’ Team Championship in Slovakia. Cappeliez was part of that squad alongside Lauralie Migneaux, Elisabeth Codet, Eva Gilly, Agathe Laisne and Marion Veysseyre.

EUROPEAN AMATEUR TEAM OF THE YEAR (JUNIOR) | ITALY

Italy is quietly emerging as one of the new powerhouses in European golf and it consolidated its reputation when its boys’ team comprising Paratore, Guido Migliozzi, Stefano Mazzoli, Teodoro Soldati, Federico Zuckermann and Eduardo Lipparelli defeated Wales, England and Sweden on its way to winning the European Boys’ Team Championship in Finland. That was not the only sparkling performance the Italian youngsters produced during the 2015 season.

Their girls’ team consisting of Virginia Elena Carta, Rosso Colombotto, Carlota Ricoli, Martina Flori and Camilla Mazzola came second to France in the European Girls’ Team Championship while Migliozzi and Carta completed an impressive double when they won the French International Boys’ Championship and French International Lady Juniors Amateur Championship at St Cloud. The former also picked up the individual title at the European Nations Cup in Spain while Carta added to the feel-good factor in her country by adding the German Girls’ and Slovenian Ladies’ titles to her name.

COMEBACK OF THE YEAR | GAVIN MOYNIHAN (IRELAND)

Irish international Gavin Moynihan showed there is no such thing as a lost cause when he recovered from a disastrous quintuple bogey to win the Carrick Neill Scottish Open Stroke Play Championship at Panmure. The 19-year-old from Dublin thought his chance of claiming the title had disappeared midway through the third round when he carded a 9 on the par-4 12th but he battled back to post a 2-under-par 68.

He was still six shots out of the lead with 18 holes left to go but then fired a 3-under-par 67 to clinch a remarkable two-shot victory ahead of Australia’s Geoff Drakeford, England’s Nick Marsh and compatriot Jack Hume on 5-under-par 275.

DEFENCE OF THE YEAR | ASHLEY CHESTERS (ENGLAND)

Chesters earned a spot at this year’s Open Championship when he won the 2013 European Amateur Championship and he will be back again next year after defending the European title at the Duke’s course in St Andrews. The fact the field did not include several top players who had elected to play in the US Amateur diminishes the feat slightly but the Englishman could only beat the players put in front of him and he did that in fine style by posting rounds of 69, 72, 69 and 72 to finish three shots ahead of Germany’s Max Röhrig and Ireland’s Gary Hurley.

BEST ROUND OF THE YEAR | TOMASZ ANDERSON (ENGLAND)

Anderson flirted with golf’s Holy Grail when he carded a stunning final round of 60 to win the Golfweek Program Challenge at the True Blue Golf Club in South Carolina. The Jacksonville State University student and England squad member fired 12 birdies and six pars during the round and it would have been even better had he not missed 8-foot putts for birdies on both the 13th and 14th holes.

AND FINALLY … SHOT OF THE YEAR | MATT FITZPATRICK (ENGLAND)

This is a tough one but I’m going to plump for the 11-foot birdie putt the 2013 Amateur champion holed on the 36th green to help him to make the cut with one shot to spare at the US Open at Pinehurst No. 2. It was all the more impressive because two months before the Sheffield youngster had seen his hopes of playing all four rounds of The Masters dashed when a similar 10-foot birdie putt slid agonisingly past the hole. Fitzpatrick turned pro straight after the fourth round of the US Open and who is to say his successor, Neil, won’t do exactly the same in six months’ time.

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