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Chesters leaves room for late wobble by taming blustery conditions

IT was less Hurricane Bertha and more just boisterous breeze Bessy, but Shropshire's Ashley Chesters harnessed the blustery conditions at The Duke's course on the outskirts of St Andrews yesterday to successfully defend his European Amateur Championship title.

It was not quite a grandstand finish, though. The 24-year-old, from the same Hawkstone Park club where former Open and Masters champion Sandy Lyle cut his golfing teeth, spilled three shots on his final two holes, but had earned breathing space with a fine, controlled display on a challenging day when gusting winds of up to 30mph provided plenty of menace.

Chesters, who had to complete the remaining 12 holes of his third round in the morning after Friday's thunderstorms, closed with a one-over-par 72 for a two-under aggregate of 282 that gave him a three-stroke victory over Ireland's Gary Hurley and Max Roehrig of Germany.

On a roll of honour that includes Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, Chesters' is the first name to appear twice.

The rewards that come with European success are sizeable and Chesters can already look forward to a return to the Auld Grey Toon for the 2015 Open Championship, providing he remains an amateur.

The English man competed in last month's Open at Hoylake having won the European crown the previous season and should he stay in the unpaid ranks for another campaign, he'll be the first amateur to qualify for two successive Opens since Edoardo Molinari in 2005 and 2006. The last player to do it before him was a certain Tiger Woods in 1995 and 1996. The problem now for Chesters is whether to delay turning professional. "It's a bit of a headache but I've had worse problems," said a smiling Chesters, who is set to make an assault on a European Tour card in the qualifying school later in the year.

"I'm going to have to have a big think, though. I played in The Open this year and loved it and getting the opportunity to play one in St Andrews would be very difficult to turn down. It's my favourite place to play golf."

After the devastating downpours that brought a premature end to proceedings on Friday, Chesters did not let the delay derail his title tilt. He returned at the crack of dawn to put the finishing touches to a two-under 69 which thrust him into a three-stroke lead heading into the closing round.

As the wind blew his rivals off course, Chesters remained resolute and a telling burst of birdies at the 15th and 16th, where he rolled in a putt of 20ft, gave him a commanding five-shot advantage with just two to play. "I knew on the 17th tee that I had a few shots to play with," Chesters added.

It was probably just as well. Having been virtually flawless up until then, he proceeded to four-putt the tricky 17th green as he racked up a double-bogey five. He then found himself some 50 yards short of the devilish 18th flag in two and opted for the safe option by trundling a raking putt to eight feet.

He still took another two to get down, but the bogey five didn't matter a jot as Chesters put the tin lid on a rare double triumph. "I'd done the hard work and hadn't hit a bad shot until those last couple of holes," he said.

Roehrig and Hurley both closed with 71s to share second on 285 while Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist posted a best-of-the-day 68 to hoist himself into a share of fifth on 287.

Perth's Daniel Young was the leading Scot in a tie for 15th on 290 after a 74.

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