Notes: Fitzpatrick rewards diehard British golf fans

Matthew Fitzpatrick gets a hug from his brother/caddie Alex after they defeated Corey Conners during the semifinals at the 2013 U. S. Amateur at The Country Club.

There is good timing. Then there is the sort of impeccable timing that members of the Moles Golfing Society should be saluted for.

In their wildest dreams, these gentleman from the United Kingdom – most of them men of Oxford and Cambridge, all of them passionate about amateur golf – never could have imagined what their trip to the U.S. Amateur Championship would lead to. If they arrived at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., near Boston, with intentions to take part “in a celebration of amateur golf,” as Minnow Powell said, then it’s likely they left fulfilled, many times over.

That’s because an Englishman held the championship trophy when the week was over.

To appreciate the pride that must have consumed members of the Moles Golfing Society, consider that their organization dates to 1911 – which until last Sunday was the last time an Englishman had triumphed in the U.S. Amateur Championship. Indeed, young Matt Fitzpatrick erased an epic drought with his convincing play at The Country Club. The fact that Powell and so many of his friends were on hand to witness it was a fitting prize for their honorable dedication to the game.

“Let’s raise a toast to this wonderful game we’ve been lucky to find,” is how Minnow and Chris Kryder described the sort of mission statement behind The Country Club’s invitation to the Moles Golfing Society to attend the 113th U.S. Amateur. Kryder had been part of a TCC members trip to the United Kingdom in 2012 during which the Moles Golf Society acted as hosts.

Golf was played at a series of outstanding courses, but mostly, the purpose was to “create a little more international friendship,” Kryder said.

Given that The Country Club would host the 2013 U.S. Amateur and on that occasion would pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of Francis Ouimet’s epic U.S. Open victory, it made sense for TCC members to invite their English friends over here, but the plan took on a wider and more appealing scope. To those with a firm grasp on golf history and the topic of Ouimet, he was more than a U.S. Open champ; he was the quintessential amateur golfer, and perhaps nothing meant more to him than the Walker Cup.

He also, noted Powell, was not only the first American captain of the R&A, but a member of the Moles.

So TCC members came up with a fitting tribute to Ouimet during this U.S. Amateur: a dinner with hundreds of guests representing those clubs that have hosted Walker Cups. From American stalwarts such as Pine Valley and Cypress Point, Merion and Chicago Golf Club, Peachtree and Shinnecock Hills, The Country Club and the National Golf Links, representatives toasted the legend of Ouimet and the glory of the game with the Moles, whose members came from Sunningdale and Rye Golf Club, Royal St. George’s and Royal Aberdeen, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham, Royal Birkdale, Formby and Luffness, Carnoustie and Royal Worlington, and, of course, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and the Royal & Ancient.

Some wore black ties. Some wore the jackets of their clubs. All wore their passion for golf, specifically the amateur flavor.

“We all love the game, love the history of the game,” Kryder said.

That is why reminders were everywhere that TCC hosted not only the U.S. Open 100 years ago, but also the Walker Cup 40 years ago. Among the rounds of golf played during the week was a trip to Kittansett Golf Club, 60 miles south of Brookline and site of the 1953 Walker Cup.

“It’s an international game,” Powell said. “It needs an international presence. The Country Club was very kind to invite us. It’s been fantastic. What we share is a common bond, and it was the right time to do this.”

But the ending? It was even more right, the first English winner of the U.S. Amateur in more than 100 years, doing it right in front of countrymen who cherish the history that was made.

• • •

BROTHERLY LOVE: Just as the 1913 U.S. Open is often saluted as not only the Francis Ouimet story, but also the Eddie Lowery story, time may reflect similarly on the 2013 U.S. Amateur. Matt Fitzpatrick? He clearly was the star of the show.

But Alex Fitzpatrick proved a valuable co-pilot for his older brother. “I have no idea how I’m going to repay you,” Matt Fitzpatrick said about his brother/caddie during the trophy presentation. “I’ve got something in mind. I’ll have to see.”

Truth is, Mike Walker suggests that Alex Fitzpatrick already has earned his reward for being on the bag seven days and nine rounds. The veteran swing coach, who works with the 18-year-old U.S. Amateur champ and has offered a few lessons to 14-year-old Alex as well, had much praise for the younger boy’s game.

“Alex is the Serena Williams of the family,” said Walker, drawing a tennis analogy to Venus' younger sister. “What will have happened with him is, he’s gotten exposure to the Open (Championship) and the U.S. Amateur and all that, and it's probably fueled his drive. He’s much more laid back than Matt. Very talented.

“He's a great footballer, and he's a really nice kid. I've not spoken to him yet, but I would have thought that it's kind of given him a bit more drive to follow his brother's success. But he's very talented.”

Indeed, the U.S. Amateur week actually began better for Alex than Matt, thanks to a call that confirmed he had been named to the England U-16 team that will soon be traveling to Italy. Last month, Alex Fitzpatrick tied for second in the Douglas Johns Tournament. At the U.S. Amateur, Matt Fitzpatrick kept talking about his brother’s short game.

“He’s just a young, talented kid going out and playing,” Walker said, “and he's having some success himself. But I've not really done much with his short game so far, so Matt would know that better than me.”

• • •

NO SHOCK HERE: No surprise, but Matt Fitzpatrick’s U.S. Amateur triumph lifted him into another award: the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the top-ranked player in the final World Amateur Golf Ranking. Fitzpatrick had entered the action No. 2 behind Cheng-tsung Pan, but clearly had the outcome to hurdle into the top spot. Lydia Ko of New Zealand secured the medal in the women’s ranking, and how will the celebrated amateur salute that honor? By trying to successfully defend her title at this week’s CN Canadian Women’s Open on the LPGA tour.

It was Ko’s third consecutive medal for topping the women’s rankings.

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