In an all-English 36-hole final with Monty Scowsill over the renowned Moray links, the 23-year-old remarkably fought back from eight down after 17 holes and from four down with four to play to triumph at the 38th hole in an extraordinary match.
Having battled with knee and back injuries in recent times and worked in a Tesco call centre during Covid-19 lockdown, Shepherd was in tears at the dramatic conclusion given the enormity of what the former R&A Foundation Scholar has achieved.In his fourth appearance in the event, the ex-University of Stirling student was warmly hugged by his girlfriend, recent Scottish Women’s Championship winner Chloe Goadby, and friend and caddie, Andrew Davidson.
Shepherd, a member of Rye Golf Club in East Sussex, can now look forward to competing in The 149th Open at Royal St George’s next month, the 2022 US Open and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament.
“It’s an amazing, amazing feeling,” said the new champion. “To come back from eight down through 17 holes, I mean I was honestly more concerned about not making an embarrassing record-breaking defeat.
“Monty played so good in the morning, so composed, and I didn’t really have my game. To turn it around was unbelievable.
“The tears are probably for the tough times I’ve had over the last few years. It’s never nice as an athlete when you feel like you are going backwards, like I was.”
Scowsill, 25, an ex-University of Exeter student, made a hat-trick of birdies from the fifth, including a wonderful chip-in from the back of the par-3 sixth, to seize the initiative on a pleasant morning with little breeze.
Shepherd passed up an opportunity at the eighth and found himself four down after nine holes. Scowsill quickly made another birdie to extend his lead as he played the opening 10 holes in four-under-par. Shepherd saw another chance slide by from seven feet on the short 11th, before three-putting the 14th to fall six holes behind.
Woodbridge’s Scowsill then drove the 303-yard 15th to set up a winning birdie. Shepherd then also three-putted the 17th to fall eight behind but he claimed his first hole of the match after Scowsill went out of bounds with his tee shot on the 18th.
Shepherd was bidding for another victory for the University of Stirling after Louise Duncan’s triumph in last week’s Women’s Amateur Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie).
He needed a fast afternoon recovery and secured his first birdie of the contest at the 23rd to return to six down.
Further birdies followed at the 26th and 27th to cut the deficit to four, but a bogey at the 29th saw Scowsill briefly go five up with only seven to play.
At the 30th, Shepherd’s par was good enough to claw one back but he soon found himself needing to win the last four holes to keep the match alive. Incredibly, he did so, helped by superb birdies at the 33rd and 35th. At the par-5 36th, Scowsill lipped out for glory.
At the 38th, it was all over as Scowsill three-putted for bogey and Shepherd’s stunning comeback was complete.