Ramsay's voyage as Britain's amateur hero only just beginning

Poor student who conquered America now in major demand, reports James Corrigan
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The Independent Online

When a Briton last won the US Amateur Championship he was forced to return home on a rickety old vessel that did not really look up to making the two-week journey back to Blighty. But then Harold Hilton had little choice. The Titanic was still being built in 1911.

Yesterday, Richie Ramsay (pictured with the trophy) was jetting back in a Boeing 777, gradually realising that the coveted silverware in his possession not only guarantees him a place in next year's Masters, US Open and Open, but also in the record books - the first Briton in 95 years to triumph in the hardest amateur competition of all, the first Scot in 108 years. If anything, though, Ramsay's journey was even more incredible than Hilton's.

It began at Gatwick a fortnight ago, when the 23-year-old from Aberdeen feared his mission would be aborted before lift-off. Caught up in the chaos of the terrorist alarm, Ramsay's plane was kept on the runway for four hours while the US authorities mulled over whether the flight to Minnesota could take off.

"I'm really happy they did give permission," Ramsay said on Sunday evening. "I wouldn't be sitting here otherwise." Ramsay was sitting there - at Hazeltine National (coincidentally, the Milwaukee course where Tony Jacklin won Britain's last US Open in 1970) - by dint of a 3 and 2 victory over John Kelly. In toppling the American favourite in the 36-hole final, Ramsay's iron play was as magnificent as it had been throughout the six-day marathon, in which 312 golfers set out.

Some of Ramsay's obstacles included losing a hole at a vital stage in his quarter-final when his caddie - the teenage son of the host family he was staying with - illegally showed him the line of the putt by touching the ground with the flag. He overcame that one, as he overcame them all, to emerge from the shadow of his fellow Scot, Lloyd Saltman, who had hitherto been the principal hope for a nation reeling after a horrendous summer of underachievment. They have an overachiever to dream about now.

Ramsay is, as he puts it, "a poor student" at Stirling University, who still has to caddie at Royal Aberdeen "so I can earn £25 a round to pay for my nights out". Now the pressure on this son of a lecturer to turn professional will only intensify.

Ramsay is determined to stay amateur for as long as he can, however, certainly until the end of his marketing degree next June and then through the majors he is exempt for and after what is sure to be a second Walker Cup appearance.

Not that he will avoid cashing in on his new fame in every respect. As a Masters invitee, Ramsay will receive free tickets and expects the demand to be great, especially as he will be paired with Phil Mickelson, the defending champion. "My dad's sent me a text, saying there's been a barrage of calls asking for 'em," he laughed. "I think I need to position myself beside a bar and wait for the offers to flood in."

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