As a proud Lancastrian, the success of Yorkshire’s golfers in his stable of clients is enough to make Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler scowl with derision.
“It’s a bloody Yorkshire invasion,” he booms when assessing the rise in prominence of the White Rose’s players.
Not that Chandler would man the fort on the Lancashire side of the Pennines to keep them out.
For two young Yorkshiremen, Danny Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick, are at the forefront of the latest incarnation of Chandler the golf handler.
The effervescent Chandler has been shaping golf careers since the late-Eighties when he accepted that his days as a player were over. Within a decade his stable of clients had grown exponentially on the coat-tails of rising European stars Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.
It took another 10 years for Chandler to celebrate a major win, from the unlikely source of Louis Oosthuizen, whom he had discovered from the rich seam of talent in South Africa.
But as he approached 25 years at the forefront of golf management – with Westwood and Clarke now in the twilight of their careers, and a brief spell in charge of Rory McIlroy a distant memory – the International Sports Management agency Chandler had built into the biggest of its kind in Europe, needed a reboot.
And that reboot was two-fold; firstly Sheffield’s Willett and Fitzpatrick, the Yorkshiremen at the head of the ISM regeneration.
And secondly, when two of his most trusted on-course managers left the Chandler umbrella to try to emulate his success, forcing Chandler to go back to basics.
“It’s been quite interesting really. My leading agents Stuart Cage and (Doncaster’s) Ian Garbutt both moved on to other things and it meant I had to go back out and be around the guys again,” says Chandler.
“It was almost like I was getting my old job back and I’ve really enjoyed it. When you see these young lads coming through it fills you with pride. It’s not about the money; it’s about seeing them do well.”
And he certainly saw Willett succeed last year.
The 27-year-old has grown as a golfer since switching to ISM 18 months ago. He had his best season in terms of consistency last year before starting the 2015 campaign with a victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City last month.
It was the biggest victory and pay cheque of Willett’s career and moved him to the fringes of the top 50 in the world and an eventual invite for a first Masters appearance in April.
Chandler can be credited with giving Willett not only greater opportunities to flourish but the confidence to go and win the big events. “He has the ability to be a top-10 player in the world,” Chandler told The Yorkshire Post.
The other player for whom the whole of English golf has high hopes is Fitzpatrick.
The mild-mannered young man of the Steel City was the hottest property in golf last summer after winning the unprecedented treble of US Amateur title and the leading amateur awards at the Open and US Open inside 12 months.
IMG – ISM’s equivalent across the Atlantic – were in the race to sign Fitzpatrick but the young Yorkshireman selected Chandler for his experience, proximity to home and because history shows that the big man from Bolton is not in a rush to turn golfers into money-makers.
“It might take five years, and be a slow process, but he’ll get there,” says Chandler.
“Matt’s a charming young man, works hard. When you grow, your swing changes.
“Coaches like Mike Walker and Pete Cowen will keep him on track. Matt will learn so much over the next few months and what we’ll see from him is a steady rise to the top.”
What impresses Chandler most about Fitzpatrick is his mental strength. He had the fortitude to resist chasing big paydays for the best part of a year, and when it did not go to plan straight away in the pro ranks and he had to go to the European Tour’s gruelling qualifying school in November, he had the patience and quality to prevail.
“I don’t think people realised how much pressure was on Matt’s shoulders,” says Chandler.
“For him to go to Tour School and grab the opportunity he did, and then to finish it off as strongly as he did, was fantastic.”
Chandler’s plan now is to sit back and let Fitzpatrick blossom at his own pace. “He’s lucky enough that with the US Amateur title he’ll get a few invites,” adds Chandler. “He’s got an invite to Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Malaysia in the first couple of months of 2015.
“Getting to the Race to Dubai final is a nice goal for him. If not, then inside the top 110, because he doesn’t want to be going back to Q School.”
Who’s to argue with the master handler? Simon Dyson and Richard Finch certainly would not, having trusted Chandler with their affairs for their entire professional careers.
Willett and Fitzpatrick could not be in safer hands. Even if Chandler wishes they were from his side of the Pennines.