Golf: Marvellous Matthew triumphs where golfing greats couldn’t

Matt Fitzpatrick pumps his fist after making a birdie on the seventh hole during the final round of match play (Copyright USGA/John Mummert)
Matt Fitzpatrick pumps his fist after making a birdie on the seventh hole during the final round of match play (Copyright USGA/John Mummert)

Even a history A Level awarded in the most significant week of his young life isn’t enough for Matthew Fitzpatrick to fully understand what he achieved last week.

The 18-year-old Hallamshire Golf Club member not only became the first English winner of the prestigious US Amateur championship since Harold Hilton in 1911 he also slayed the demon of British players over the testing Country Club course at Brookline, Massachusetts.

Fitzpatrick is a bright lad and he understands the history of his chosen sport.

He can just about remember the 1999 Ryder Cup when the USA beat Europe in a bad-tempered clash by one point in what became known as the ‘Battle of Brookline’. On that occasion the Americans wild celebrations on the 17th green stuck in the craw of the European team.

Fitzpatrick barely needed to get past the 16th on his road to glory, but that’s just detail.

The former Tapton school student will no doubt know lots about Sir Nick Faldo, but he wasn’t even born when the six-time major winner was beaten by Curtis Strange at the US Open in 1988 over the same course.

And 100 years ago two-time US Amateur champion Francis Ouimet, then aged 20, beat the great English golfer Harry Vardon and Jersey’s Ted Ray in the US Open at Brookline to kick-start the American golfing boom which continues to this day.

Fitzpatrick is more concerned about writing his own history though, and on Sunday evening, as he saw off Australia’s Oliver Goss 4&3 in the final, he did just that.

It’s a lot to take in, he said: “It so great to be in the history and great to be the new winner obviously. The whole win hasn’t sunk it yet as I haven’t got home yet and I think the congratulations may start again once I am home.

“It was certainly nice to win at Brookline - especially due to the history of the course!”

Fitzpatrick arrived at Brookline in form. The silver medal from finishing as the best placed amateur at The Open championship last month was safely tucked away and he’d sharpened up for match play by finishing runner-up in the English Amateur championship at the beginning of August.

After two rounds of stroke-play qualification Fitzpatrick then won his last 64, 32, 16 and quarter-final matches by 4&3. A 2&1 win over Canada’s Corey Conners in the semi-final sent him into the 36 hole final with Goss.

And with 14-year-old brother Alex caddying he pulled away on the final back nine to clinch the title.

He said: “I was taking it round by round really as I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. I don’t try to shoot amazing scores in qualifying; I played safe and tried to take my chances.”

A return to America awaits with the Great Britain and Ireland team for next month’s Walker Cup. For now he wants to enjoy the moment before starting a four-year scholarship at Northwestern University in Chicago in September. He said: “The biggest thing is just being with my family and speaking to family, girlfriend and friends back home.

“They are all so proud of me and I really appreciate the support throughout my efforts. It has also been nice to get some congratulatory messages from some famous golfers too!

“I really appreciate the support from Hallamshire and the city, I got a lot of tweets from members and people from Sheffield so it was nice to have that.”

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