Stephen Jensen holed a fantastic birdie putt on the 18th green to clinch a dramatic comeback victory in the final of the inaugural English Senior Men’s Amateur Championship.
After five days of intense competition at The Leicestershire Golf Club featuring over 100 of the country’s top seniors, the 56-year-old from The Wisley emerged victorious in a thrilling match against Andrew Smith representing Royal Ashdown Forest.
It was a stunning win in more ways than one. After eight holes of the final, Smith led by three holes and was playing beautifully.
However, Jensen rallied to draw level by the 12th and after four halved holes, took an important step towards the title by winning the par 3, 17th hole with a par.
The real drama was reserved for the final hole. Smith – with nothing to lose – drained a 35-foot putt across the slope on the final green for a birdie. With the crowd edging towards the first tee and the expected play-off, Jensen took a deep breath and promptly canned his effort from 25 feet to match his opponent’s birdie and win by a hole. It was a fitting way for the final to be decided and for Jensen it was a moment of real emotion.
In the morning semi-final against Rupert Kellock, Jensen twice found himself trailing by three holes before fighting back to win on the final green. That rally was repeated in the final and it left Jensen drained and excited. He said: “I think it’s probably the most exciting game of golf I’ve ever been involved in. It was nip and tuck from the start. I got off to a good start – but let a few holes slip and found myself three down again having done that with Rupert (in the semi) and thought ‘here I go again. I felt as if I was playing good enough golf to get back in it and I did. Once I got back in it, I couldn’t nudge ahead. He holed some very good putts, he’s a gritty player. And you saw what happened down the last – it doesn’t get any more dramatic than that. It beats Thorbjorn Olesen from a few weeks ago. I was very excited. I’m delighted and it was a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Jensen admitted he thought a routine par down the tricky 18th hole would be good enough to earn him the win – especially with Smith facing a treacherous putt across the slope. But when his rival holed his effort, Jensen knew he had a free shot at glory.
“Where did that come from?” he said referring to Smith’s gutsy putt. “I thought, ‘oh no’. It happened on 15 as well but when you know irrespective of the putt it doesn’t matter, you’ve just got to knock it in. Which I’m glad I did. It was very exciting, very dramatic and I’m very pleased to walk off the 18th green as the inaugural English Senior Men’s Amateur champion. I had tried to be relaxed and not get too excited. It all came out on the last. For me it’s a big thing. I’m very proud – to win national titles is every amateur golfer’s dream.”
Earlier in the day, the semi-finals were both keenly contested affairs. Jensen’s comeback against Kellock set the theme for the day. Trailing by three on the 12th tee, he rallied to win on 18. The second semi-final was always in the control of Smith after birdies at three and four gave him an early advantage over Paul King, his rival from Essex, Smith then holed a monster putt from the front apron of the 11th green to edge three holes clear and never looked like relinquishing his grip on the match.
A par three on the 17th was enough to secure a 2&1 win and passage to the final.
The final itself was another fine example of seniors’ golf at its best with Jensen – the English Mid-Amateur champion back in 2017 – now adding a senior title to his golfing CV.