All hail the rise of Fitzpatrick the younger
“Keep him Amateur for as long as possible please Matt. We don’t need another baby faced Fitz winning out here just yet!”
Eddie Pepperell’s tweet to Matt Fitzpatrick was tongue in cheek, but the insane performance of the Sheffield Ryder Cupper’s teenage brother in the Yorkshire Amateur Championship has rightly raised eyebrows throughout the game’s grass roots.
Alex Fitzpatrick has been on the golfing radar for quite a while, and not just for being the younger brother of the three-time European Tour winner.
When caddying for Matt at his famous 2013 US Amateur victory at Brookline, he was described by veteran coach Mike Walker as the “Serena Williams of the family”.
We all know what happened there.
He’s been representing England since he was 15, has played for GB&I in the Jacques Leglise Trophy and has also posted a couple of decent finishes in the Carris Trophy.
Earlier this summer, he reached the quarter-final of the English Amateur at the Berkshire, losing at the last to eventual finalist Jack Gaunt.
All of those achievements pale, though, compared with what the 18-year-old did at Cleveland this week.
The prestigious tournament only became a 72-hole stroke play last year but you can wager that Fitzpatrick’s winning total of 23 under par will remain in the record books for some time to come.
Helped by a second-round course record 62 – recording both outward and inward halves of 31 – the youngster also put pen to paper on efforts of 69, 65, and 69.
— Cleveland Golf Club (@ClevelandGolfCl) August 23, 2017
In a decent field – Charlie Thornton, who finished tied for second, was the England Golf Boys Order of Merit winner last year – Fitzpatrick was 13 shots clear of his nearest rivals.
Thirteen shots. On a 7,000-yard links course.
“That is mental,” tweeted NCG’s resident Foghorn Tom Irwin, who played in the championship and made the cut. He finished 41 shots adrift. Or 10.25 for every round. That’s not that far away from a shot a hole. (Sorry, Tom.)
While Fitzpatrick was setting records, only eight other players in the field were under par. The standard scratch is 74 at this Yorkshire links and the first three rounds saw that beaten by just a single digit. Round four came in right on the number.
My maths is by no means the strongest but I reckon he got pulled about a shot and a half for all of this and has moved his handicap from +3 to around +5. That’s an unbelievable shift in just four rounds of golf.
And imagine how demoralising this all must have been for those who came in behind.
In surely any other year, Malton & Norton’s David Hague and Fulford’s Thornton would have been playing off for the title.
Hallowes’ Sam Bairstow put together an excellent second-round 64 and actually lost ground to Fitzpatrick in the overall standings, who was also the only player to record all four rounds in the 60s.
No one else managed any more than two.
Without taking into account difficulty of courses, or conditions, Owen England won the West of England Amateur at Saunton in April with a three-under total, While Jake Burnage claimed the South of England title at Walton Heath on 11 under.
The wind was in the players’ favour at Cleveland over the first two days, and the massive downpour during the second round made it target golf for the longer hitters.
“Conditions on the first two days were very benign and you could conceive how low scoring was possible, but to actually go out and capitalise to such devastating effect is something else,” Irwin said.
“His 65, 7 under, in a tougher wind was arguably a more impressive score than the 62 especially given he was backing up such a low score. Incredible.”
A dominating performance in every way.
Winning the Yorkshire Amateur is a feat not even his esteemed brother can match – Matt was a losing match play finalist in 2011.
It remains to be seen what Alex can achieve in the US College system, having committed to play for Wake Forest from the 2018 campaign.
It will be no surprise, though, to see the teenager pushing his brother – and everyone else – on the European Tour very soon.
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Picture credit: Cleveland Golf Club