After a delightful approach to the short 9th, the South African rolled in the short putt to go five-up. Potgieter looked in trouble on the par-5 11th after pulling his drive but he drilled a brilliant, low approach and won another hole as Bairstow fluffed his chip. Given Potgieter plays at Pinnacle Point on the southern coast of South Africa, he is well used to keeping it low in the wind.
It was seven-up to Potgieter after Bairstow bogeyed the 12th but only his second birdie of the day at the 13th gave him hope. The Hallowes member continued to battle, sharing the next four holes, but he was bunkered off the 18th tee and found himself seven down at halfway.
That was the same score that Shepherd found himself down to Monty Scowsill last year before launching an extraordinary comeback that saw him triumph at the 38th.
An errant tee shot from Potgieter at the 21st saw him make his first bogey, allowing Bairstow to win just his second hole and reduce his arrears to six down. The South African, a three-time winner at junior level in his homeland this year, hit another poor tee shot at the 22nd only to rescue a vital half with a 10-foot putt.
Bairstow, who qualified for last year’s Open at Royal St George’s, had renewed belief and holed a 35-foot putt at the 24th to spark a roar from the crowds, but a birdie at the 26th saw Potgieter reclaim a six-up lead by the turn and stay in control.
However, the Sheffield native made another birdie at the 28th, among five from him in the afternoon round, to keep fighting. A bogey at the 30th from Potgieter and a win from Bairstow at the 31st suddenly saw him claw within three holes, as the South African continued to find sand. Bairstow claimed a third hole in-a-row at the 32nd but his double bogey at the 33rd ultimately ended his hopes as Potgieter closed it out at the next with a par.
“Hitting in the fairway puts a lot of pressure on your opponent,” said the victor. “Especially when you're not comfortable with the driver, you can hit the 2-iron down the middle of the fairway.”
“Aldrich played good golf,” added Bairstow, who was magnanimous in defeat. “I don't think he dropped a shot this morning. Around here, in a bit of wind, that's great golf. I didn't have my best stuff this morning. I was probably just a little bit nervy.
“With all the crowds here, there's a lot of people I know, and that spurred me on a bit this afternoon. I just couldn't get it all the way back. I was a bit emotional at the end with everyone cheering but unfortunately I couldn't do it for them.
“But I suppose growing up, if you had said to me, ‘Would you ever reach the final of The Amateur? I'd say, ‘no’. It's quite special.”
The R&A provided live broadcast coverage of the quarter-finals, semi-finals and Final on The R&A’s website and its YouTube channel – and will do so again next week for the Women’s Amateur Championship at Hunstanton in Norfolk.
After record entries for this week’s Championship at the 11-time Open venue and near-by St Annes Old Links, next year’s staging is at Hillside and Southport & Ainsdale.