Obituary: John Beharrell, former golfer, 72

&#149 John Beharrell, amateur golfer and administrator. Born: 2 May, 1938, in Birmingham. Died: 14 December 2010 in Lichfield, aged 72.

When John Beharrell won the British Amateur Championship at Royal Troon in 1956 he was just 18 - the youngest winner of the championship.

To gain such a startling victory at such an age was an achievement in itself but a certain lustre was added in the way Beharrell conducted himself. Later recognised as one of the most colourful champions in the tournament's history, on the road to the final he defeated a wealth of established golfing talent - all many years his senior and with imposing tournament victories.

In the first round Beharrell beat Charles Lawrie, the Scottish international and Walker Cup player, in the next two rounds, he beat Ian Caldwell and Frank Deighton (both Walker Cup players), then Gene Andrews, a former USGA Public Links Champion. In the semi-final Beharrell beat Reid Jack, the Scottish Champion and a legend in Scottish golf. And in the final Beharrell played and defeated (by 5 & 4) Leslie Taylor - yet another Scottish international.

Writers at the time likened his mastery at Troon to the great Bobby Jones or "Henry Cotton at his best". Beharrell played exemplary golf throughout the tournament and displayed a level of determination and concentration way beyond his tender years.

His consistent golf - both his shots off the tee and short game around the greens - astounded the large crowds. "He hits the ball a long way and he has plenty of reserve strength," one American commentator memorably wrote. "He stands six feet high and weighs 175 pounds. While playing golf he is completely poker-faced and always wears a cap well down. He has a ruddy complexion and is a pleasant-looking boy."

Leslie Taylor told The Scotsman of that final in 1956 on a sun-baked Royal Troon. Now 87, Taylor is still spry with a sharp memory. He modestly recalled: "John got rid of many a better golfer than me on his way to the final. He had a week when everything went right for him: puts dropped and he miraculously avoided bunkers. His pitching and putting I remember was outstanding. The course was very hard so it was a good test of golf. John was a wonderful competitor to play against and I have no complaints at all. Except," Taylor then adds a touch ruefully, "I lost".

During the final Beharrell went over to the referee at one stage and asked: "Please excuse me, Sir, but can you tell me the state of the match?" It was a measure of the young man's composure, courtesy and concentration. The 18-year-old Beharrell captured many hearts at Troon during the championship.

John Charles Beharrell was brought up in Little Aston, near Birmingham and attended Bromsgrove School. When the family moved to the area Beharrell watched the English Amateur Championship in 1948 on the Little Aston course - a club of which he was to be a member for six decades - and the young lad was given some cutdown clubs by his grandfather. "Good," Beharrell was heard to say. "Now I can play more golf."

While Beharrell did represent England in the 1956 Home Internationals and Britain in various competitions, he never played in the Walker Cup or in any major tournaments. Instead he concentrated all his energies on running the family finance firm in Birmingham - thus limiting the time he could devote to golf and instead of pursuing a career as a professional he played an influential role in the sport's administration. He was captain of the R&A in 1998 - a club he joined in 1956 and to which he was devoted. He sat on four of its governing committees and was a popular figure around St?Andrews and the Old Course.

In 1990 on his retirement Beharrell and his wife devoted more time to the horticultural business he had started near Lichfield in the 1960s. His fascination with the game of golf, however, remained constant and he collected golfing memorabilia and played regularly, winning the Scottish Hickory Championship at Old Musselburgh in 1993.

Beharrell was a natural golfer: a fine rhythmic swing and with a cool and resolute temperament. He was never a slave to the practice ground. "Two hours a day intensive practice," he once said, "is better than five hours mucking about."

His wife Veronica is a former member of the Curtis Cup team and had been Australia and New Zealand Ladies Champion in 1955. John Beharrell is survived by his wife and their two sons and daughter.