Qatar Masters win propels Eddie Pepperell back into spotlight

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Qatar Masters win propels Eddie Pepperell back into spotlight

Euro Tour

Qatar Masters win propels Eddie Pepperell back into spotlight

Eddie Pepperell has come a long way since reaching the quarterfinals of the 2007 British Boys Championship at Royal Porthcawl. Back then he was a cocky 16-year-old, convinced he was destined for stardom. Eleven years later and Pepperell, who has just earned his debut win in the $1.75 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, is much more philosophical about his place in the game.

Several college coaches were on the prowl at Royal Porthcawl. They were impressed by Pepperell’s play. When it was suggested to Pepperell that he had a choice of college programs, he brashly brushed off the notion.

“I’m going to do an Ollie Fisher,” Pepperell said.

Oliver Fisher turned down the chance to play college golf and earned his European Tour card on his first trip to the European Tour Qualifying School as a 17-year-old. Pepperell wasn’t so lucky. He failed at his first attempt after he turned pro in 2011. He needed a year on the 2012 European Tour Challenge Tour to get his card for the main tour.

Pepperell’s first three years as a European Tour pro went well even though he didn’t win. His closest tilt at victory came when he lost a playoff for the 2015 Irish Open. With money-list finishes of 76th in 2013 and consecutive years at 49th, Pepperell seemed to be heading in the right direction. Then everything went pear shaped in 2016.

Pepperell lost his playing rights and had to return to the qualifying school. He earned it back and went on to his best season as a professional. He placed 41st on last year’s money list.

As many golf fans know, Pepperell runs a regular blog that provides an intimate look at tour life. These missives don’t feature regular tour pro diary entries of what they had for dinner, how late the courtesy car was or how many hours they spent on the range. “Going deep” for most tour pros is hitting a 360-yard drive. For Pepperell it means digging deep into his soul. Consider this 2016 entry entitled “A lonely paradise,” which proves he’s more concerned with the existential nature of life than shaft flexes and the quality of practice facilities at tour stops.

“I’ve completely given in to the fact that we are all innately messed up and complex in our own little ways,” he wrote. “Vulnerability I’ve always found to be the first building block toward success. It should be embraced.”

Eddie P, as he’s known on tour, went even deeper when he lost his tour card at the end of 2016. He wrote: “I came to the realization I don’t love this game the way I used to.”

He clarified that comment to Golfweek in greater detail when he said: “Most professional golfers eventually come to that realization in one of two ways. I came to that realization because I struggled so much under an awful lot of pressure. Up until that point I hadn’t really had that experience. At the opposite end of the spectrum you have a player like Rory McIlroy who falls out of love with the game because of all the trappings of his success, and what is required of him as a human being. Nobody really enjoys huge success no matter what they say.”

Deep, very deep. So much so Pepperell has attracted a small cult following. No surprise then that his Qatar victory is arguably the most popular of the year so far for European golf fans.

Ironically, Pepperell pipped Fisher to take the title. They began the final round tied for the lead only for Pepperell to edge his good friend and one-time inspiration by a shot. Pepperell’s reaction to the win shows just how much he’s matured since the bravado of Royal Porthcawl.

“This will give me confidence,” he said. “When you win, you know you can win. I’ve always felt and believed I will win out here, but it hadn’t happened before today. You’ve always got to take that step and that’s uneasy, but at some point, in everyone’s career they’ve got to do something for the first time. Hopefully this is not my last.”

The word “hopefully” proves how much he’s grown up in 11 years. Back then he would have expected multiple wins. He’s a different person now.

“This game does humble you,” Pepperell told Golfweek after the 2016 season. “It humbles everyone sooner or later, no matter how good they are.”

Three years ago, Pepperell’s name was consistently mentioned in the same context as Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Tyrrell Hatton and others as future English golf stars. He dropped out of that elite company when he lost his card in 2016. His Qatar victory and brilliant play last year makes him part of that conversation again.


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