PHIL TOMKINSON has reduced his handicap from scratch to plus two in a season which has seen him win the prestigious Yorkshire Order of Merit.
And as well as earning the Moortown member a £200 voucher from sponsors Eagle Golf Centre, it has also earned an invitation to train with the Yorkshire squad this winter.
Tomkinson hopes this will lead not only to a place in the Northern Counties League champions’ squad, but also to him elevating his game to an even higher level.
After winning four Order of Merit events – the Pannal Rose Bowl, the Sand Moor Masters, the Cobble Hall Scratch and the Northcliffe Sir Norman Rae Classic – he will look to compete in more national events next summer.
He had his first taste back in July when he played in the English men’s amateur championship – won by Hillsborough’s Joe Dean – and in 2016 plans to compete in the equivalent events in Wales and Scotland.
“Getting down to plus two opens a few more doors on national events that I can enter,” said Tomkinson, “and I will be looking to not just play in them but to compete in them too.”
Going into the Moortown Masters on his home course, he was paired with club-mate Ben Firth who was the only player who had a chance of eclipsing him and taking the Order of Merit title.
“It was good fun,” he said. “I think we were both pretty nervous, but he played really well while I didn’t strike the ball so well. But I chipped and putted my way round and my short game kept me in it.”
Firth finished runner-up to Howley Hall’s Ben Hutchinson while Tomkinson placed sixth, good enough to lift the Order of Merit crown.
All four of his tournament wins were close-run affairs - he won one by two shots, two by one shot, and the other (the Cobble Hall Scratch) in a three-hole play-off with Huddersfield’s Josh Morton.
Tomkinson, son of Otley professional Steven, has been working with performance coach and fellow Moortown member Duncan McCarthy, of Ignite Sports, on improving the mental side of his game and it has paid dividends.
“Duncan has taught me that you have almost just got to let it go and swing carefree, which is the opposite of what you would really think,” said Tomkinson.
“It is tough to do, especially when you are under pressure, but with Duncan’s help I have got quite good at dealing with nerves.
“I’m able to get engrossed in the round rather than thinking about the result. I think about the processes that I’m going through rather than what may happen.”
He says he decided at the start of the season to place his focus on trying to do well in the Order of Merit events, and, with understatement, commented: “I have played pretty nicely all year, it’s been a good season.
“I decided to concentrate on the Yorkshire Order of Merit and because of that I pulled out of the Lee Westwood Trophy at Rotherham. I then came second at Wetherby and won at Sand Moor so it proved to be a good decision.
“Ben played in the Westwood and I didn’t and it probably proved the difference.”
Tomkinson, who is studying a golf management degree at the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston, also tied fifth in the Yorkshire amateur championship at Fulford – won by Meltham’s Jamie Bower.
“I played nicely there, but I couldn’t get it going on the last round otherwise I might have had a shout at the title,” he recalled.
At 19, his ultimate aim is to becoming a tour professional, but recognises he needs time to improve before leaving the unpaid ranks.
“I need to keep working hard on my golf and I’m enjoying the journey at the minute,” he said while taking encouragement from fellow Yorkshiremen Danny Willett, a multiple winner on the European Tour, and Matthew Fitzpatrick, who is having an extraordinarily successful first full season on the circuit.
“Seeing how well Danny Willett and Matt are doing on Tour, it makes it seem possible (to become a Tour pplayer) because they have been in the same place as me and have progressed to that level.
“Matt is obviously a bit of an exception in that he has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years, which has been very impressive, but Danny Willett has taken a more normal route, if you like, and improved gradually over the years
“I have played in the group behind Matt at the Yorkshire Boys and you feel ‘he has been in the same place as me and has now progressed onto the European Tour so I can too’.”