Return to Gullane evokes fond memories for Fitzpatrick

The absence of Rory McIlroy, allied with the presence of major winners like Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose, may dominate the headlines at the Scottish Open this week, but for one young Yorkshireman a return to Gullane offers the chance to reflect on a life-changing moment.

Matt Fitzpatrick at his home club of Hallamshire.

Matt Fitzpatrick was a wide-eyed 18-year-0ld amateur when he arrived at the East Lothian links two year ago, just one of a hundred or so hopefuls striving for one of only three spots available in the Open.

Two rounds later, the Sheffield golfer had finished second and qualified, and life would never be the same again.

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The silver medal for finishing as the high amateur would follow later that July at Muirfield, before an historic US Amateur triumph in the September and another award for best apprentice at the US Open the following summer.

“It’s actually all a bit of a blur thinking back to being here in 2013,” said Fitzpatrick, now 20, who returns as a first-year professional on the European Tour.

“But it feels special. I remembered all the holes when I first played them again this week, but I can’t remember my specific shots from two years ago.

“What I mainly remember is the feeling afterwards – the waiting first and then when I realised I had got into The Open it didn’t sink in until I was actually there.

“My aim getting to Muirfield was just to make the cut, so to do that and also win the silver medal was a massive bonus.

“That week, starting with qualifying here at Gullane, changed my life in a lot of ways.”

The rate of acceleration may have slowed but that is not to say Fitzpatrick is not progressing.

He has adapted well to life in the paid ranks, with his best finish so far coming at the recent Lyoness Open in Austria, when he finished third. He is 71st on the Race to Dubai and top spot in the category 15 re-rank – meaning further starts in more of the big events has allowed Fitzpatrick to reassess his goal.

“It’s been a big learning curve so far, I’m a better player already I think. I’m more organised, can plan my way around a bit better – golf and life-wise,” said Fitzpatrick, who has this last chance to qualify for St Andrews next week. “My aims for the season were to just keep my card and get to have another go next year.

“But now I’m even looking at top 60 and a place in Dubai.”

John Parry and Richard Finch are also in action.