Young Fitz races to Yorkshire Amateur title
A dash back to see his coach after his opening round propelled Alex Fitzpatrick to a record winning score in the Yorkshire Amateur Championship.
The Hallamshire member spread-eagled the field with a scintillating 23 under par total of 265 to win by 13 shots, adding the men’s title to the boys’ championship he won earlier this year.
Fitzpatrick struggled to find the fairway in his opening round of 69 and relied on his iron play which has been nothing short of spectacular all year long. He jumped in the car and made his way back to Pete Cowen’s Academy in Rotherham and managed to catch the major championship winning coach in the car park as he was about to head home.
“Luckily we caught Pete just in the nick of time. I was going to hit balls and try to iron out my driving myself but he agreed to stay on and have a look at me.
“He got me back on the right track within 15 minutes. Basically I was trying to hit a fade but I was setting up to hit a draw so it was going straight left."
Alex becomes Yorkshire Amateur champion
With the driver now back firmly in play he took apart the Cleveland course with a ten-birdie round of 62, making seven of those birdies from inside 3 feet - such was the accuracy of his approach shots played, of course, from the fairway.
He said: “It’s hard to describe the round really. It was the first time I had gone that low. I was hitting the fairways with a nice fade from the tee and still getting it out there to a decent distance. My iron play has been good all year.
“The longest putt I holed was from 12 feet and in the last five holes I had four more realistic chances, one from 12 feet, two from 10 feet and another from 6 feet, so a 59 was very much a possibility looking back but I didn’t really think about it at the time,” he told Yorkshire Golfer.
Ironically he ranked his seven under par third round of 65 as the best of the week. “It was much windier and the course was definitely more difficult than the previous day when it was soft and calm.
“This might sound a bit mad but the 65 was more impressive in my eyes as I made nine birdies, the longest of which was from 16 feet.”
He shares the same modest traits as his elder sibling Matt, already a three time winner on the European Tour, and admitted he was not aware of the double he had completed until it was mentioned during the prizegiving.
And he took some pride in trumping his brother, who finished runner-up to Dan Wasteney at Ganton in 2011 when the championship was still played in its original format of 36 holes of strokeplay followed by matchplay.
Young Fitz says his brother didn’t mention losing in the final when he received a congratulatory message. “No he didn’t mention he had been beaten in the final but he was really pleased for me. He knows I have been working hard and playing well for the last couple of months and was delighted it had paid off.”
At the age of 18 he is another tremendous prospect from the Broad Acres, but his golfing journey started aged two when he began hitting balls before joining Hallamshire at the age of nine. Two years later he joined Cowen’s Academy although reckons he’s only been taking ‘serious’ lessons with Pete and Nick Huby for the last 18 months or two years.
A year from now he will head to Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, North Carolina, the alma mater of Arnold Palmer, Jay and Bill Haas, Curtis Strange, Lanny Wadkins, Scott Simpson and Billy Andrade to name but a few.
“I looked at going this year but they didn’t really have a place for me and waiting another year actually suits me better. I can have a year to really focus and knuckle down and play all the big events.
“If I am going to turn pro then a stint over there should do me good. I will be playing against tougher opposition on great courses and the facilities are fantastic. It’s a great opportunity to see where your game is really at.”
Closer to home though he has set his sights on making the England men’s squad, which will reward him with coaching in Portugal and the opportunity to represent England in a series of events in either Australia or South Africa early in 2018.
Joint runners-up David Hague (Malton & Norton; 70, 69, 66, 73) and Fulford’s Charlie Thornton (70, 66, 67, 75) finished on 10 under par, one ahead of Hallowes’ Sam Bairstow, who had shot 64 on Wednesday only to find his new course record surpassed by Fitzpatrick’s 62 less than half an hour later. His other scores were an opening 70 and 72, 73 on the final day.
Former Lee Westwood Trophy holder Nick Poppleton (Wath), who recently reached the semi-finals of the English men’s amateur championship and led at Cleveland after day one, placed fifth (67, 70, 70, 73), two shots clear of the host club’s Sam Millington (71, 68, 70, 73).