Fitzpatrick to stay amateur for 2014, perhaps longer

Matthew Fitzpatrick

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Matt Fitzpatrick, the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, intends to stay amateur for the 2014 season, perhaps longer.

“I’m not even thinking about signing a professional contract right now,” Fitzpatrick said Tuesday via telephone from his native England. “I just want to practice hard and go out and have a fantastic year again."

Fitzpatrick, who withdrew from Northwestern after one semester in Evanston, Ill., said the only way he would turn professional is if he were to post a top finish at a major championship or win a professional tournament. As the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, Fitzpatrick earned exemptions into the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship, provided that he remains an amateur.

“A lot of doors opened that I didn’t expect,” said Fitzpatrick, reflecting on his surprising exit from the college game. “I would have loved to do four years, but I want to be the best prepared I can be golf-wise for this year, and that’s the main reason I left. It’s the best decision to me, to be a full-time golfer.”

He said that his parents, Russell and Susan, fully support his decision.

“I think we both agreed on education and playing four years at Northwestern,” Fitzpatrick said, “but I want to enjoy this year and be the best I can be, and I didn’t think I could do that with school work and college golf.”

In five college tournaments, Fitzpatrick posted one co-victory (with teammate Jack Perry) and finished third in another for the Wildcats, who ended the fall at No. 31 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.

Fitzpatrick, 19, added that he could return to school someday.

“I loved it there (Northwestern), but just not right now,” he said.

Luke Donald, an English native who graduated from Northwestern in 2001 and still lives in Evanston, said he learned of Fitzpatrick's withdrawal from his alma mater via text from coach Pat Goss. Donald, speaking from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, said he had yet to talk with Fitzpatrick but called it "a tough loss for Northwestern."

"Personally for me, I think the four years I had were invaluable," said Donald, who graduated from the suburban Chicago school in 2001 with a degree in art theory and practice. "I really enjoyed my experience. I felt like I got better at golf but enjoyed just college life, and I think that was great for me. That's not for everyone. I wish him all the best."

Doors already have opened for Fitzpatrick.

In addition to the exemptions into the season's first three major championships, he has been granted a spot in the RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island, S.C., the week after the Masters, and is expected to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla., on March 20-23.

Fitzpatrick said that other than the Open Championship, he has received no exemptions on the European Tour.

His summer amateur schedule has been taking form, too. He will play in three major U.K. events – Lytham Trophy, Brabazon Trophy and British Amateur – before defending his U.S. Amateur title Aug. 11-17 at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.

Fitzpatrick played in the Lytham and Brabazon events in 2013 but missed the both cuts. He did not play in the '13 British Amateur.

He intends to pick his spots carefully this year.

“I don’t want to play too much or not enough,” he said.

– Alistair Tait contributed

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