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Alex Fitzpatrick may have lived in the shadow of his older brother, Matt as the World No.26’s career goes from strength to strength, but he's ready to follow in his footsteps on his PGA Tour debut at the Valspar Championship.
Alex received an exemption following his win at last year’s Valspar Collegiate Invitational – but the 23-year-old Wyke Forest senior says he had no idea the stakes were so high until after he’d completed the 36 holes. Speaking ahead of the tournament, he explained: “It was a funny one. I didn't really know until I had finished the first day, which was 36 holes, and they kind of sat everyone down. It was like a dinner, and they announced that the winner would get an exemption. So then I was, my eyes kind of lit up a little bit, and I was a bit taken back. So it was kind of a nerve-wracking final 18 holes. It was always in the back of my mind, but I played nice golf and managed to get it done and now I'm here and I couldn't be happier.”
When Fitzpatrick tees off at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, it will mark the first time he and his brother have played in a professional event together, and he admits he can turn to his more experienced sibling for advice when he needs it: “I would say that I'm probably in a luckier situation to where I can call upon someone as close as my brother to for advice all the time, someone who I can run ideas past and ask for help. He's always willing to help and do anything to help my game get better. I'm very lucky with that.”
Meanwhile, Matt posted a photo on Instagram showing himself and Alex at Innisbrook before the tournament, with the message: "Playing alongside someone familiar at the Valspar this week! Will be a proud moment seeing @alex_fitz9 make his tour debut!!" so the respect between the two siblings is clearly mutual.
A photo posted by on
Fitzpatrick is under no illusions about just how much of a step up the PGA Tour is from amateur golf, and realises there are areas of his game that need to improve: “The couple of things that I would change are probably driving and putting. Just a few things that I noticed over the last couple years, which I felt like I needed to improve on, especially to reach the top end of golf on the professional side. I feel like you can sort of get away with it a little bit in amateur golf, but when you turn professional and you're actually playing for money it's something that I can't really afford to do.”
Nevertheless, Fitzpatrick, who counts his short game and approach play as his strengths, isn’t writing off doing well in the tournament, but says his main goal is to enjoy the experience: “My mindset isn't come in here and thinking about the cut line. I feel like if you start thinking like that suddenly your goal is just to make the cut and then that's all you focus on. So I'm keeping my thoughts open, I would say, just sort of going out there and making sure that I enjoy myself.”
As for future ambitions, Fitzpatrick, who caddied for Matt when his brother won the 2013 US Amateur, thinks his appearance on the PGA Tour this week could be just the start of a successful career. “I personally feel like I've done and experienced a lot of the amateur game and feel like I'm pretty close to making the step to professional golf.”
Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.