Tommy Fleetwood (pic by Warren Page) ()
In the short term, this week’s Kazakhstan Open gives England’s Tommy Fleetwood the chance to continue his 100 per cent record of having made every cut since turning professional last month.
In the longer term, the talented teenager is focusing his efforts on trying to follow in the spike marks of his friend and compatriot Sam Hutsby, who has this season made the transition from stellar amateur to hardened professional, having earned his European Tour playing privileges through the 2009 Qualifying School – Final Stage.
If anything, Fleetwood’s amateur career was even more impressive than that of Hutsby, who won the 2006 Spanish Amateur Championship and lost out to a certain Matteo Manassero in the final of last year’s Amateur Championship.
Fleetwood also lost out in the final of the 2008 Amateur Championship, when victory would have seen him crowned the event’s youngest ever winner, but he more than made up for that in the final month of his amateur career.
Having been edged out by a solitary stroke at the English Challenge on the Challenge Tour, Fleetwood promptly embarked on a winning spree which took in the English Amateur Championship and the Home Internationals, with a joint runner-up finish at the European Amateur Championship sandwiched in between his two victories.
Thus, to say he relinquished his amateur status on a high might be considered something of an understatement.
Fleetwood said: “I was obviously slightly disappointed not to win the English Challenge, but I knew I was playing well and winning the English Amateur the next week proved it, so that wasn’t a bad consolation! I was just pleased that I managed to put myself into contention right up until the final putt of the English Challenge, so there were definitely more positives than negatives to take from the week.
“It ended up being the start of a really good month for me, which meant I finished my amateur career as the Number One on the scratch World Rankings. That was obviously a huge honour, and gave me a big confidence boost to take into my pro career. The standard of the amateur game is getting better and better all the time. Two amateurs have already won on the Challenge Tour this season and I nearly made it three at the English Challenge, so the future’s looking pretty bright.”
Fleetwood’s own future is looking especially bright, after creditable performances at the Czech Open and the Johnnie Walker saw him earn his first paycheques.
But the 19 year old has yet to make any inroads into the €11,677 he has earned thus far in his fledgling professional career – a sensible approach which is perhaps in keeping with his level-headed nature off the golf course, but rather at odds with his attacking style on it.
He said: “My life hasn’t really changed that much – the only real difference is that I’m now playing for a bit of money, so every shot counts a bit more! Other than that life’s basically carried on as normal, although I don’t get to go to my golf club back home as much as I used to. I still haven’t spent my first paycheque yet because I haven’t really had the chance, but maybe I’ll treat myself to something when I get home.
“I really enjoyed my first tournament as a pro at the Czech Open – I knew quite a few of the guys in the field, which always helps to fit in. I felt pretty relaxed before the start, although I was slightly nervous about making a mess of my first tee shot, so I was relieved to get that one away well. It was nice teeing up on Saturday morning knowing I’d already guaranteed my first paycheque.
“I was in a bit of a panic on the Friday afternoon, wondering whether or not I was going to make the cut. But in the end I made it through on the mark, and although I maybe didn’t play as well as I would’ve liked on Sunday, it was still a great experience. Then I made the cut again at Gleneagles in my next event, which was another great week, and now I can’t wait for more.”
The next instalment in Fleetwood’s golfing education comes at Zhailjau Golf Resort in the Kazakhstan capital of Almaty, the spectacular venue for what has been the most lucrative regular event of the Challenge Tour season since its inception five years ago.
With €400,000 up for grabs this week Fleetwood could swell his coffers still further, but perhaps more importantly the tournament affords him the opportunity to secure his playing privileges for next season.
He said: “This is a big tournament for me, so I’ve got to thank the promoters for getting me an invite for this week and next week in Russia. Sam [Hutsby] played the tournament last year and I know him quite well, so I had a brief chat with him before coming here to ask him about what to expect. I know his clubs went missing on the way over and he faced a nervous wait to see if they were going to arrive on time, so hopefully my preparation’s been a bit less stressful than his was!
“He mentioned the course was great and it looks in very good condition, so I’m really looking forward to getting out there and seeing it for myself. These two weeks are a great chance for me to get a Challenge Tour category for next season. I’ll hopefully get a few more chances to play on both Tours in the coming weeks, then I’ll head to Stage Two of Tour School and try to get my card that way. But if I don’t manage it, hopefully I can play well enough on the Challenge Tour this season to get a decent card for next year.”