Warren Bates from Heacham wins the 116th Norfolk Amateur Championship held at Swaffham Golf Club
Warren Bates conjured up a cracking comeback to record a slender success in the 116th Norfolk Amateur Championship.
The Heacham golfer signed for a 72-hole score of three-over-par at Swaffham Golf Club to pip teenager Ben Willis by a single stroke.
It was the second time Bates had won the prestigious county crown, having also claimed it at the old Royal Norwich four years earlier.
Bates’ battling qualities combined with his talent as he powered up the leaderboard after a low-key start to his final round.
Through eight holes he was four back from the joint leaders, playing partner Ben Rawsthorne and Willis, who was in the group behind.
But Bates rolled home a 20-footer for a birdie on the ninth and then at the next boomed his drive to within inches of the putting surface on the 318-yard par-four.
With the door ajar he seized the opportunity, landing the eagle putt from 18 feet to close to within one of the summit.
There was soon a further key moment at the par-five 13th where Rawsthorne lost a ball off the tee.
He was unable to convert a subsequent seven-foot bogey putt and then watched Bates hole out for a birdie from a similar distance.
Bates also made a further gain at the 15th to grab full control and all of a sudden it was his title to lose.
A flyer from the left-hand rough saw his approach sail over the green at 17 and it took a bit of short-game magic to restrict the damage to a bogey.
And again Bates had to call on his green-side touch to salvage a par at the closing hole, a challenging par-four.
Then he had to sit and wait to see if Willis’ late move would result in a play-off. The Swaffham golfer had picked up strokes at 15 and 16 to tie at the top before just running through the green with his approach into the last.
From there, Willis was unable to salvage his par, leaving his rival in the race to reflect on the spirited revival that ultimately proved just good enough to secure him top spot.
Bates, 22, said: “I was very pleased to win.
“I’m never one to give up – anything can happen and it’s not over until it’s over. So it was, keep digging away, keep grinding and hope to get a result – and it came.
“My caddy Amber did a great job on the front nine in the final round, keeping my head cool and focused.
“It’s nice to get my game trending in the right direction fairly early in the season as I have been working hard with my long-game coach Paul Ashwell and my short-game coach Chase Davis.”
It was an emotional victory for Bates, who lost his nan Erica in February of this year.
He added: “I dedicate the win to her. I definitely thought of her when I was playing. There was someone looking down from somewhere – it was good.”
Runner-up Willis and 16-year-old Ed Featherstone firmly indicated that the future of Norfolk golf looks bright.
Featherstone’s third-round 69 was the lowest score over the two days and helped him to finish in a tie for third place with Rawsthorne on seven-over.
The team trophy, staged over the first 36 holes, was claimed by Royal Norwich’s Rawsthorne, Ben Terry and Liam Cossey.
Their combined tally of 461 was six shots better than the score posted by the King’s Lynn trio.
The other star of the show was centenary-celebrating Swaffham Golf Club, which was presented in immaculate condition with its greens rolling superbly.