Faced with the kind of daunting mountain to climb that just about required breathing apparatus, Laird Shepherd produced one of golf’s great comebacks to win the Amateur Championship at Nairn yesterday.

Eight down after 17 holes of the 36-hole final against fellow Englishman Monty Scowsill, and still four down with just four to play, the 23-year-old Stirling University graduate hauled himself level on the final green before eventually securing an astonishing triumph on the 38th hole of an absorbing, emotional tussle.

The outpouring of tears at the end underlined the magnitude of a draining conquest which, as well earning him the most cherished title in the unpaid game, secures him invitations to next month’s Open and next year’s Masters and US Open.

Shepherd’s ambitions looked to have been obliterated in the morning’s opening round, though, as Scowsill reeled off four birdies in fives holes from the fifth to move four-up and he had doubled that lead by the 17th. Shepherd won the final hole of the morning to reduce the yawning deficit to seven holes but his task seemed a forlorn one.

“I was having lunch and I thought it was over, I just didn’t want to make it embarrassing,” said the St Andrews-based Shepherd, who feared a back injury earlier this year would end his golfing career. What was it the great, six-time Open champion Harry Vardon once said though? “Even in our darkest hour, we must remember; never despair.”

With a never-say-die spirit, Shepherd set about his thrilling salvage operation with his first birdie of the day at the 23rd and further birdies at the 26th and 27th got him to within four holes. He was still four down standing on the 33rd tee but won every hole coming in to force extra holes.

Shepherd made his par on the 38th to heap the pressure on a shell-shocked Scowsill and when his short putt lipped out, the title was Shepherd’s. “It’s been a hard year with injuries and I was wondering if I could play again let alone win something like this,” he added. “Back in January, I hit five or six shots and was in tears.”

At Nairn yesterday, Shepherd was crying tears of joy.