Challenge Tour champion Charlie Ford and one of England’s leading amateurs Tommy Fleetwood have both praised the impact of the English Golf Union on their golfing educations, ahead of next week’s English Challenge.
The English Golf Union (EGU), the governing body for amateur golf in England, is an Official Partner of the inaugural English Challenge, which will be played from July 22-25 at Stoke by Nayland Golf, Hotel and Spa near Colchester, Essex.
Fleetwood, currently 24th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and Ford, winner of the Turkish Airlines Challenge presented by Carya Golf Club, are two members of a strong home challenge intent on taking the title – though only Ford would be eligible to collect the €24,000 first prize.
Until he turns professional later in the year, Fleetwood is playing purely to gain experience rather than prize money. But having tasted life on The European Tour at the recent Alstom Open de France, the 19 year old is keen to test himself against some of the world’s brightest young golfing talent next week.
He said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to play on a European Tour course at the Open de France and see how the pros out here do things, because the amateur game is very different. I’m hoping to be on the Tour in a few years’ time, so it was an invaluable experience. I hope to turn pro towards the end of the summer and then go through the Qualifying School, but nothing is decided yet.
“I’m really excited about playing the English Challenge. I was delighted to get the invite, because it will be another great experience for me. It looks like they’ve attracted a very strong field for the event, so there will be some stiff competition. It’s great to see the EGU’s involvement in a pro event, because that has never happened before.
“They’ve been a huge help to me in my amateur career. I got on the England squad at an early age when I was just 14, and then got into the Under-16 squad. For the last two years I have been in the elite squad which has turned my game around completely – I have gone from a boy to a young man in the space of a year or two. When I just got into the squad there was Sam Hutsby and Charlie Ford, who I really looked up to. The EGU do a huge amount for amateurs, and at the end of my amateur career I can’t thank them enough for all they have done. It would be great to go out with a bang by winning the English Challenge.
“I’ve seen the success of Charlie on the Challenge Tour and Sam on The European Tour after coming through Qualifying School, and I’ll be trying to go down one of those routes. I’ll be trying to get on The European Tour any way I can, and winning a Challenge Tour event would be a pretty good place to start! Hopefully I can get a few invites, because I really want to get out there and start playing. I know some of the lads out there and I know I can compete with them, so the sooner I can get out there, the better.”
Ford will be one of the favourites to take the English Challenge title, having continued his fine debut season in some style with a tied sixth finish at last week’s ALLIANZ Golf Open de Lyon.
Currently ninth in the Rankings, Ford is well on course to graduate to The European Tour at the first time of asking, and the 25 year old from Leicester believes his transition from the amateur to the professional ranks would not have been as smooth had it not been for the assistance he received from the EGU.
He said: “The EGU have got a really good set-up. They’ve got plenty of coaches if you’re in one of the squads, and the funding definitely helps. The coaches are good and have played on The European Tour, so they know what life’s like out here. They pass on their knowledge, and help get you prepared for life as a professional.
“They also run some really good amateur tournaments, which set you up really well. It’s a big help for you to get prepared. They get you used to scheduling and help you with training camps over the winter, so you can get some practice in. I had some great winter practice – I went to Australia one winter, and they helped fund a lot of the expenses for travelling and hotels.
“It was slightly different for me because I had American College, but for some of the other guys who turned pro around the same time as I did, there’s no way they would’ve been able to do it without the help of the EGU. They’ve been helped through all their early years, and it’s the stuff like sorting out all the scheduling that really helps. They wouldn’t have been able to cope on Tour otherwise, because you need those skills from an early age. They also look after you really well with equipment and help you get sponsorship deals when you’re young, which is a big help.”
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