Fitzpatrick continues outstanding summer

Matthew Fitzpatrick walks up No. 13 with his brother/caddie Alex during the Round of 16 at the 2013 U. S. Amateur at The Country Club.

Matthew Fitzpatrick walks up No. 13 with his brother/caddie Alex during the Round of 16 at the 2013 U. S. Amateur at The Country Club.

— Matthew Fitzpatrick is a popular player this week at the U.S. Amateur. And it’s not just because he’s winning, although that certainly helps.

He has an infectious attitude about him. He’s always smiling or laughing whether it be with a spectator or his brother (and caddie) Alex.

Fitzpatrick won his Round of 16 match over Texas freshman Gavin Hall, 4 and 3, to move into the quarterfinals at The Country Club on Thursday afternoon.

Fitzpatrick, 18, has played with Hall before when he came to the U.S. for the 2011 Junior Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

• • •

U.S. Amateur: Thursday's results; Friday's quarterfinal schedule

• • •

“He (Hall) just hits it so far,” Fitzpatrick said. “And I have to admit at that time I was thinking I do need to improve my game and that’s the level I have to be at. I’ve improved a lot over the last three years since then.”

Indeed he has. Since playing in the Junior Players, Fitzpatrick has made quite a name for himself.

The following summer, he won the Boys’ Amateur Championship, catapulting his young golf career.

The win led to signing a National Letter of Intent to play college golf at Northwestern, which he will attend in a few short weeks. He also qualified for the Open Championship at Murifield.

Oh, and he played pretty well there.

He won the Silver Medal for being the low amateur, and met some well-known golfers along the way. To name a few: Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Tom Watson, Fred Couples. No big deal, right?

“It was the best week of my life by a mile. . . . Even if I won (the U.S. Amateur), it would still top it,” he added.

Fitzpatrick says Russell Henley was the nicest – and he met him well before the Open. Fitzpatrick got to meet Henley at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley in April when he was the guest speaker for the players.

“On 17 I hooked it into the deep, deep stuff (at Muirfield) and I was panicking a bit,” Fitzpatrick said. “But (Henley) like sprinted after it and we were on the same score as well. It was pretty good of him really.”

He also has a nice match-play record. The week prior to his win at the Boys’ Amateur Championship, he played in the Boys Home Internationals. There, he played 10 games, including foursomes and four-ball matches, and he only won two points.

He thought to himself, “I just can’t win.”

He broke through with a win at the Boys’ Amateur and since the 2013 English Amateur Championship, where he lost to Callum Shinkwin 4 and 3 in the finals, he was undefeated in match play between country, county and club matches.

“I managed to get it back together after that,” Fitzpatrick said.

This week Fitzpatrick, the No. 2-ranked amateur in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, has yet to go beyond the 15th hole in match play.

His 14-year-old brother is helping quite a bit with that.

Alex, who a good golfer himself, has jumped on the bag for the second time this year. He got to caddie during The Open practice rounds for his brother.

Alex has been a big help on the greens.

“I help him read greens cause he’s not that great in reading them but he holes a lot of putts,” Alex said, laughing.

Alex has tried to get involved with Matt’s iron play, but Matt doesn’t want him to get down on him.

“He’s now telling me, ‘Oh, I don’t think it’s 8-iron, Matt.’ I’m like ‘Alex, if I’m wrong it’s me, not you, so don’t get involved,’ ” Matt said, also laughing.

This week also has big implications for a spot on the GB&I Walker Cup team for Fitzpatrick.

After the summer he’s had and the week he’s having, it’s almost guaranteed that he’ll make an appearance at the National Golf Links of America in September, but he manages to keep that out of his mind while on the course.

The boy wonder from Sheffield, England, continues to amaze on the world’s grandest stages.

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