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Another first for Chesters but now Q-School beckons with chance to emulate feats of former champions

The Hawkstone Park club in Shropshire will always be synonymous with Sandy Lyle, but the production line of talent does not stop with the former Open and Masters champion.

Ashley Chesters' victory earns him a return visit to St Andrews for next year's Open. Picture: SNS
Ashley Chesters' victory earns him a return visit to St Andrews for next year's Open. Picture: SNS

Ashley Chesters has got a fair way to go to emulate the great golfing feats of Lyle but the 24-year-old continues to make a name for himself.

On a decorated European Amateur Championship roll of honour that features the likes of Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher, Chesters now appears twice, having become the first player to successfully defend the crown. The young Englishman was in fine fettle at The Duke's course on the outskirts of St Andrews but things hadn't looked too healthy for him just a week earlier.

"I was playing in the English Amateur Championship at Saunton," recalled Chesters, who will be part of the England team at this week's Home Internationals at Southerndown in Wales.

"I qualified for the knock-out stages but had to withdraw with some kind of sickness bug. I felt awful and went about three days without food."

His victory in the home of golf was just what the doctor ordered. If his European triumph in Barcelona a year ago was played out in heat that was "bloody boiling" then his St Andrews success was ground out in strong, menacing gusts that were "bloody horrendous".

Following the abandonment of Friday's third round due to thunder, lightning and torrential rain, Chesters had to complete his remaining 12 holes on Saturday morning before striding out again for the closing round in the bright, but boisterous, conditions.

Three ahead after 54 holes, Chesters cemented his place at the top with a controlled harnessing of the elements. Tee to green, he was terrific and it was only on the last two holes where things got slightly sloppy. He leaked three shots in that closing stretch, including a four-putt double-bogey on the tricky 17th, but such was the commanding advantage that he had forged, he could afford a late stumble over the line.

Chesters' one-over 72 for a two-under 282 left him as the only player under par and gave him a three-shot win over Germany's Max Roehrig and Irishman Gary Hurley. Chesters has already tasted the big time experience of the Open Championship, having earned his place in last month's showpiece at Hoylake by winning the European title in 2013. His win at The Duke's means he is pencilled into the Open field for the 2015 championship back here in St Andrews, provided he retains his amateur status.

Chesters has already stated that this neck of the wood is his favourite place for playing golf and the invitation to contest an Open on the Old Course would be "hard to turn down". With professional ambitions, though, and an assault on the European Tour's qualifying school looming on the horizon, he has plenty to ponder. "I'm going to have to have a big think about what I'll do," he admitted. "I'm still going to Q-School as an amateur and then we'll see after that."

While Chesters heads for Wales on international duty, two of Scotland's brightest prospects are on the other side of the Atlantic this week for the US Amateur Championship. Bradley Neil, the winner of June's Amateur Championship at Portrush, and St Andrews Links Trophy winner Grant Forrest line up at the Atlanta Athletic club in a field that also includes 13-year-old Will Thomson, who will become the youngest player to compete in the championship.

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