Jonathan Smart admitted his hands were shaking as he stood over the four foot putt that was to earn him and Masters champion Danny Willett the US$50,000 first prize in the Alfred Dunhill Links Team Championship at St Andrews.
Willett, who usually has Smart as his caddie in every other week of the golfing year, raised his arms in triumph when the putt dropped and then hugged him, saying later: “Jon rose to the occasion and carried me all week – I invited him to have a taste of what it’s like on my side of things and he’s now annoyed a lot of people by winning his first event! But he played some great golf.”
Smart, a six-handicapper from Sheffield’s Hallamshire Golf Club, holed the decisive putt on the Old Course’s ninth green for a birdie three and said: “That’s the best golf I’ve ever played today and Danny is over the moon for me. But I won’t be getting any percentage of the winnings – he’s already done more than enough for me this week by giving me this treat of playing in such a great event as his amateur partner. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”
Willett and Smart started the final day on 26-under-par and shot a 12-under-par round of 60 to clinch the title by one stroke from Polish professional Adrian Meronk and his Swedish amateur partner John Eliasch, the sporting goods tycoon.
Meronk and Eliasch had started out with a three-shot lead over Willett and Smart but were gradually hauled in by the English pair, who sported matching beige trousers with maroon tops. Playing together in a four-ball, the two teams were tied on 37 under par when they teed off at their final hole, the ninth; Smart’s birdie blow then decided a titanic struggle.
“It was a real matchplay situation for eighteen holes,” added Smart. “Those guys kept coming at us! It has been an amazing week for me, and I cannot believe that I’ve won. But I’ve definitely experienced a little of the nerves that Danny has to cope with in every tournament. Now I’ll appreciate what Dan’s got to go through a little bit more. It’s been a real insight and so enjoyable.
“On that last hole my hands were shaking when I was trying to line the ball up. When you’re telling someone what to do, it’s a lot simpler than having to do it yourself! It has all been just very surreal. I could not believe how nervous I was coming down those last few holes. And to win an event with Dan, here, has just been unreal.”
Willett, who missed the cut in the individual tournament, added: “It’s been great fun. I’ve obviously not played great golf myself. I showed a few bits every now and again but luckily that’s what this format is for us as a team, dovetailing well and stuff like that, which we did.”
Cricket legend Sir Ian Botham, playing with English professional David Horsey, and Fifty Shades of Grey actor Jamie Dornan, who played with individual winner Tyrrell Hatton, were among the three teams who shared fourth place in the team competition.