The Open, Uni, Augusta, European Tour, big cheques and Matt Fitzpatrick, the boy from Sheffield, is only 21
The College Dropout
Matt Fitzpatrick is just a normal 21-year old from Sheffield. He should be preparing for his third fresher's week at Northwestern University in Chicago at the moment. The week that involves telling girls you're also a fresher, are on their course and in fact are in their halls of residence too... it's as good as it gets!
But Fitz was a college dropout, kind of like Kanye West, but rather than to embark on a rap career and presidential run it was because he won the small matter of the 2013 US Amateur earning him invitations to the Masters, the US Open and the Open Championships of 2014.
So in January of 2014 he took the decision that his mornings were best served getting ready to play Augusta rather than doing coursework and nursing hangovers.
Fast forward to September 2015 and he is a full-time professional on the European Tour and has accumulated a cheeky €681,640 in prize money already this season... which is possibly favourable to a mountain of student debt and looking forward to noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“I still go back to see the friends I met there. I went back at the start of the year when things weren’t going quite as well and I’d missed a few cuts. I see my mates out there and they have a load of student loans and it does put everything into perspective.
“Everything has gone really fast, I haven’t had much time to let everything sink in. I'm off this week but this doesn’t happen very often to be honest.”
Staying on the ground
Like everybody his friends and family are hugely important for him, but largely they help him feel grounded. The people of Sheffield aren't the type to take too kindly to prima donnas or egos and chatting to Fitz you get the feeling that despite his recent success he won't be turning into one anytime soon.
This is despite the fact that as a 20-year old travelling the world his freshly opened personal bank account has recently been taking some very big deposits, including a lovely €300,000 from a second place finish in Switzerland (obviously minus Chubby's cut and expenses!)
“My mates will always text me. I might shoot -5 one day, then if I shoot -3 the next day they’ll say that was no good, when I think it’s not a bad round. Basically they keep me grounded by abusing me constantly!”
In addition to banter from friends he is signed up with Chubby Chandler at ISM who he says have looked after him well. One look at the stable of guys from similar backgrounds to him in Westwood, Clarke and Willett shows he probably hasn't gone too far wrong.
And then like all of us there is our families that keep us from getting ideas above our stations. He had his younger brother Alex on his bag for the U.S. Amateur triumph who himself is one to watch, especially if you listen to their father Russell.
"They are very different personalities. Alex is more of a character and I would say he has a real natural ability and is more powerful. He is four years younger than his brother but is as long off the tee," said Fitzpatrick Senior.
Absolutely savage from the old man and proof that younger siblings are always the favourites but there may be method behind the Yorkshireman's words ins keeping his newly rich tour pro child's feet firmly where they belong!
Not all ups, the odd down too
But it hasn't all been rosy for Fitzpatrick. The start of this year on the European Tour although he had a fifth in South Africa this was followed by five missed cuts and a T72.
Parallels were being made to Justin Rose who famously burst on the scene as an amateur before missing the cut in his first 21 events. Fitz was nowhere near that but it is a test of the confidence of someone so young.
"I was playing well at the start of the season but just missing cuts by one. I think it was five in a row. It was frustrating but you just keep going.
“I wouldn’t mind having the career Justin Rose has had though! Even though people were saying it I never really feel like I should go up to him and say ‘Remember when you missed all those cuts Justin!’ and having a chat about it.”
The next big thing
When you throw in his obvious talent, his work-ethic and just how grounded and free of distractions he is, it won't be long before that win comes and he's confident of that too, throwing a London buses analogy at me.
But don't mix being all this for him settling for what he has at the moment, the kid has big dreams too, perhaps unsurprisingly considering the tasters he has had of Augusta and at The Open Championships and US Open where he won low amateur in both.
“The goals are constantly changing. Obviously this year I wanted to secure my Tour card which I have done, then it was get in the Race to Dubai… which I think I’ve done. I guess now it’s trying to move up the World Rankings.
“I want to go to the US as soon as I can, I love it out there. It is a dream of mine to play on the PGA Tour. But first I want to become established in Europe.”
The Sheffield lad won't ever let on but at 21 years of age everything is set for him to be the next big thing. Think majors, Ryder Cups and Santander adverts.
Then maybe his old man Russell will think he is better than his brother!
Words - Ryan Curtis
I'm the Managing Editor at The Club. I like putting and Rioja. I dislike my low slice.