England’s Josh Hilleard captured the French amateur title in brilliant fashion, charging 18 places up the leaderboard in the final round then winning the championship in a play-off.
Hilleard, an England international, was one-over par after 54 holes and eight off the lead, when he shot seven-under 64 in the fourth round at Chantilly.
It included a stunning run of four consecutive birdies and an eagle, which started on the fourth, and it catapulted him into a tie with Pierre Pineau of France, who also charged to the top with a closing 66.
On the first play-off hole, the short 16th, Pineau had a putt to win, but his ball lacked speed and missed on the low side of the hole.
They continued to the par four 17th where Hilleard managed a text book par which gave him the title after the Frenchman found sand with his tee shot and was unable to match him.
“This is a massive thrill, more than you can imagine,” said Hilleard, 20, from Farrington Park, Somerset. “You might hope one day to win from however far behind I was, but you know it’s not going to happen that often. It’s a very big confidence boost.”
He gave a hint of what was to come when he played the first nine holes of the third round in five-under, before dropping shots on the way home. It triggered positive thoughts for the last round and he went out “hoping for something to happen – and it did! The golf all just fell into place, everything I’d practiced came together and worked.”
Hilleard gave himself a brief fright on the 11th, where he had a double bogey, but said: “It brought me back down to earth and got me back concentrating. It was all going too easily and, although it cost me a bit, it certainly woke me up!”
Pineau – with whom Hilleard had played the opening two rounds – was the first to congratulate him on his score. “He’s a top kid,” said Hilleard, who becomes the first Englishman to win this title, going one better than England team-mate Marco Penge who forced a play-off in last year’s championship, only to lose to Ivan Cantero of Spain. This is the fourth year in a row that the title and the destination of the Murat Cup have been decided in a play-off.