The former R&A Scholars battled through quarter and semi-final ties today over the Moray links to set themselves up for the 36-hole showdown.

The winner gains an exemption into The 149th Open at Royal St George’s, the 2022 US Open and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament.

Shepherd, 23, from Rye in southern England, claimed a notable one-hole semi-final triumph over Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup player Jack Dyer, closing with a superb 3-wood into the par-5 18th for a winning birdie.

Dyer, also 23, who finished runner-up in the stroke play qualifying, was two down after five holes but recovered to all square at the turn. Shepherd, who graduated from the University of Stirling last June and now lives in St Andrews, refused to go away in a nip-and-tuck back nine to set up his winning finish.

Shepherd, who worked in a call centre during lockdown to make ends meet, said that experience was “an eye-opener” and made him more determined to “try and make golf work.”

In the other closely-fought semi-final, ex-University of Exeter student Scowsill (pictured above) came through against Wales’ James Ashfield by two holes.

Ashfield, 20, was bidding to become the first Welshman to win The Amateur since Stephen Dodd at Royal Birkdale in 1989, but it was Scowsill, 25, who was two up after four holes. In a tight match, Ashfield pulled back to level the encounter at the 9th.

Laird Shepherd blasts out of a bunker during his victorious semi final match. PHOTO: Getty Images.

It was still all square after an extraordinary 12th hole when Ashfield found trouble on the right with his second shot, took a penalty drop line of sight back around 100 yards and promptly pitched in for bogey to halve the hole. However, it was Woodbridge’s Scowsill who held his nerve to triumph, helped by a birdie at the 15th.

“It feels amazing,” Scowsill said. “I’ve exceeded my expectations for the week so far. I’ve played some really, really good golf. I went into the match play full of confidence and it has materialised into victories.

“Tomorrow is a big day. It’s what you dream about as kid when you get into golf, playing in Majors with your idols. The opportunity for that to happen tomorrow is incredible and I’m extremely excited to play.”

Nairn was bathed in glorious sunshine once more as the renowned links builds on its excellent reputation having hosted The Amateur in 1994, the Walker Cup in 1999 and the Curtis Cup in 2012.

In the morning, hopes of a home winner ended at the quarter-final stage. Nairn member Calum Scott was again backed by local support and gave them early cheer by almost holing his tee shot at the short 4th to go one up against Ashfield.

However, Ashfield quickly turned the match around to win three holes in-a-row and go two up after seven. Scott battled back to all square after Ashfield’s double bogey on the 12th but the Welshman came through 2&1 to end the brave bid of the 17-year-old Scot.

Scowsill was never behind in his last-eight meeting with St Andrews’ John Paterson. The Englishman raced to a two-up lead after three holes on the back of the Scot starting with three bogeys and held control for the duration, winning 3&2 thanks to birdies on the 10th and 16th.

The most impressive quarter-final win came from Shepherd. Three down after six holes to countryman Sam Bairstow, he won three of the next five holes to square the match at the 11th. Left hander Bairstow went back ahead on the 14th before Shepherd won the 15th and 18th to edge through by one hole.

The 36-hole Final will be live broadcast on The R&A’s YouTube and Facebook accounts as well as on