All those predictions Ian Poulter made some years ago that Sam Horsfield would be a future winner on the European Tour came gloriously true on a gripping final day at the Hero Open at Forest of Arden on Sunday.
The 23-year-old, who Poulter took under his wing when Horsfield was just 14, claimed the title formerly known as the English Open with a shot that would have filled the Ryder Cup legend with pride.
Horsfield had fallen behind for the first time all day when he came to the par five 17th. After a good tee shot he still had 235 scary yards left for his second shot over the water, into a stiffening breeze.
His nerve didn’t falter for a second. The resulting five wood proved to be the shot of the tournament, finishing 15ft from the flag to set up an automatic two putt birdie. Horsfield then moved ahead by a stroke after his nearest challenger, Belgian Thomas Detry, missed from 5ft to bogey the 18th.
While the distraught Detry covered his face with his hands, Horsfield found the middle of the green at the tough par three finishing hole, and two putted for the victory that meant so much.
There might have been only a stroke between the pair, but no-one could deny that Horsfield richly deserved his triumph. He had dealt with the pressure of leading for almost two days, and came through his own personal crisis on Saturday, when a six shot lead dwindled to just a stroke.
Regaining momentum is difficult in any sport, but Horsfield closed with a commendable 68 to hold off the charging Detry, who shot 66. After sinking his short victory putt, Horsfield struggled to sum up his feelings.
‘It’s crazy, I don’t think it’s possible to describe how I’m feeling right now,’ he said.
‘It’s certainly been a dream of mine to win out here.’
Horsfield was born in Manchester but the family moved to Orlando when he was young. He met Poulter when he was just starting to make a name for himself at local level, and the two families have become firm friends.
Horsfield is managed by Terry Mundy, long-time caddy for Poulter who now combines occasional stints in that role with looking after some of the latter’s business dealings.
‘It’s been a massive help to have had Ian and Terry in my corner growing up and they’ve always been there when I’ve needed them,’ said Horsfield.
His victory was another tonic for the European Tour, with the opening two events in the six week UK swing claimed by a couple of obvious future stars in Renato Paratore and Horsfield, who are the same age and who both play with such refreshing speed.
Welshman Oliver Farr, who grew up in the Midlands and used to attend the English Open at the same venue near Coventry as a youngster, had his best-ever finish on tour at the age of 32 with a tied third placing alongside Chris Paisley from England and Swede Alexander Bjork.