Sheffield teenager speeds up switch to the Tour

Matt Fitzpatrick on his way to winning the 2013 US Amateur championship (Picture: USGA Museum.)
Matt Fitzpatrick on his way to winning the 2013 US Amateur championship (Picture: USGA Museum.)
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Sheffield’s US Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick is to turn professional after next month’s US Open.

The 19-year-old – who shot to fame last year by winning the silver medal for leading amateur at the Open and then the US title the following month – has bowed to an increasing clamour for him to join the paid ranks by doing so ahead of schedule.

The Hallamshire Golf Club member had initially planned to wait until after returning to the Open in July and defending his US Amateur title in August.

But after a mature performance at the Masters in April and a competitive finish at the RBC Heritage on the US PGA Tour the following week, Fitzpatrick has brought the decision forward.

He has signed with ISM, 
Europe’s leading management company, having also been courted by the biggest agency in the United States, IMG, such was the interest the Yorkshire teenager had generated.

“I chose ISM because I was impressed with how much they wanted to manage me,” said Fitzpatrick, who quit college in the United States in January after just one semester.

“I had options, but eventually it came down to ISM.

“They have a proven track record of guiding the careers of young golfers and moulding major champions. I am in good hands.”

Fitzpatrick’s last act in the unpaid ranks will be to play at the US Open at Pinehurst from June 12 to 15, when he will attempt to add another high-profile amateur accolade to those he claimed so convincingly at Muirfield last year and so thrillingly at Brookline a month later.

The following week he will make his debut as a professional at the European Tour’s Irish Open and he will make up the rest of his schedule – minus the Open and US Amateur – by playing on sponsors’ invites.

The next career-defining milestone – aside from the glamour of next month’s US Open – will be the European Tour’s qualifying school in November, unless he earns enough money in the handful of tournaments he will get into to win his card outright.

The fact that he would have earned around £25,000 for his 23rd-place finish at the Heritage at the end of April provided sufficient evidence to the former Tapton School pupil that he is equipped to make money among the big boys of world golf.

There are two very distinct trajectories a budding amateur might follow once he turns professional.

Justin Rose was just shy of his 18th birthday when he finished joint-fourth at the Open in 1998.

He turned professional the following week and missed the first 21 cuts of his career.

He may have had the last laugh, winning the US Open last year, but his is a cautionary tale.

Contrastingly, Rory McIlroy’s transition from apprentice to paid ranks was a lot quicker as he rose to the top of the world game on the back of two major wins within five years of topping the amateur rankings.

Somewhere in the middle of those two is Tom Lewis, who won on his third appearance as a professional but has done little since, and Fitzpatrick’s fellow Sheffielder Danny Willett, who has steadily built a solid reputation over five years.

Fitzpatrick joins Willett in Chubby Chandler’s ISM stable.

Chandler said: “Matthew has enjoyed a whirlwind 12 months and the way he has conducted himself both on and off the course has been mightily impressive.

“He has the talent and the temperament to achieve whatever he wants in the game and we are delighted to have the opportunity to help him do just that.”

With any luck, Fitzpatrick will be among the stellar list of professionals competing at Wentworth for the BMW PGA Championship in 2015 – this year’s version of which is headlined by nine major champions.

Joining Rose, McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Retief Goosen and Jose Maria Olazabal is European golf’s form man Martin Kaymer.

The German was a US PGA champion and a world No 1 when he tinkered with his game three years ago, but he is back to something like his best after winning the Players’ Championship at Sawgrass two weeks ago.

“I can hit any shot that I want to hit, which is important, and I didn’t believe that I could do it when I was No 1 in the world or even when I won the PGA Championship,” said Kaymer, on the eve of the PGA.

“It was very easy for me to play golf, but it was not satisfying. So now I would say I’m a more complete player.

“I won’t play well every week. It’s not so much about playing good golf or playing bad golf. It’s about the will.”