Golf: Sheffield youngster eyes big event

Sheffield's Matthew Fitzpatrick, right, with USA's Fred Couples at the Open Championship at Muirfield.
Sheffield's Matthew Fitzpatrick, right, with USA's Fred Couples at the Open Championship at Muirfield.
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He wasn’t mistaken as a ball carrier this time but neither did he have a playing partner who is one of America’s great golfing names.

No, it was back to what constitutes as normal yesterday for Matthew Fitzpatrick, the young Sheffield golfer who sprang to national prominence at the Open Championship at Murfield.

He was in the field at England amateur golf’s blue riband event, the English Amateur Championship, starting out yesterday by aiming to qualify from the opening two days for the final Matchplay stages over the final four days culminating in the 36 hole final on Saturday.

The 18-year-old from Hallamshire Golf Club finished as leading amateur at the Open Championship thus winning the prestigious silver medal and capping a hugely memorable four days which helped confirm the feelings of those in the golfing fraternity that he is a big talent who could have a real future in the game.

And certainly become more recognisable - on the practice range at Muirfield he was challenged by a steward and asked if he was Tiger Woods’ ball carrier and was also asked for his credentials in the clubhouse.

But there were no doubts over identity when he was paired with the veteran American Fred Couples, former US Masters champion, for his final round in which he made a one over par 72, his best round of the four, and it included three birdies.

But, this week, he is just one of many talented golfers - and one of ten from this region - in a field of 288 aiming to win the English Amateur Championship at Frilford Heath near Abingdon in Oxfordshire.

Last year he won the big Daily Telegraph Boys’ Championship, a national event, and although the next four days represents a stiff test, his experiences at Muirfield will stand him in good stead.

Fitzpatrick did extremely well even to get through the tough, competitive qualifying rounds to make the Open. Then to do so well was a great confidence booster.

“What it showed me is that I can compete with those guys,” he said. “It was a tough course with the fairways so narrow and the rough so deep and I can’t imagine any amateur event ever being as hard a course as Muirfield.”

The 288 youngsters play two of the courses at Frilford Heath in the qualifying round. The top 64 from the two rounds of qualifying then go into the Matchplay stages which start on Wednesday.

Fitzpatrick is heading out of Sheffield at the start of September for the next stage of his golfing education.

He is going to Northwestern University near Chicago where he will begin a four-year golf scholarship.