U.S. Am to Englishman
Brookline, Mass. — One hundred years after British superstars Harry Vardon and Ted Ray stopped at The Country Club on their unsuccessful victory tour, Matt Fitzpatrick finished the job.
Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Amateur on Sunday, beating Australian Oliver Goss 4 and 3 in the 36-hole final Sunday to become the event’s first English champion since 1911. The 18-year-old soon-to-be Northwestern freshman is the first foreigner to win any major USGA event at The Country Club, a streak that grew into a legend when Francis Ouimet beat Vardon and Ray here in the 1913 U.S. Open.
“It’s fantastic, and it’s nice to be the first (in) a while,” Fitzpatrick said. “I guess it’s great to go down in history. That’s sort of what everyone wants in golf, wants to achieve. … It’s just fantastic, and I feel great.”
Fitzpatrick never trailed in the final match, taking the lead for good on the second hole of the afternoon round — the 20th of the day — and going 2 up one hole later. Goss cut it to one on No. 9, but fell behind two again on the 10th hole when he lipped out on a 4-foot putt.
Fitzpatrick went 3 up on the 14th hole and then on No. 15, where he had won four of his previous five matches, he was short of the green and Goss was off the back.
Goss’ chip missed the hole by about 6 inches and rolled 3 feet past, while. Fitzpatrick two-putted from the closely mown area leading up to the green, hitting his second from less than 6 feet. When Goss missed his par putt, the two shook hands and Fitzpatrick hugged his brother, Alex, who was caddying for him.
“It was nice to win 4 and 3 again today,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s kind of a strange thing. I did have a feeling that I could close it out.”
Fitzpatrick, who was the low amateur last month in the British Open, got a gold medal for his victory along with exemptions into the 2014 U.S. and British Opens — where he will be paired with defending champions Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose — and a likely invitation to the Masters. His name will be inscribed on the Havemeyer Trophy alongside five-time winner Bobby Jones, three-time winner Tiger Woods and two-time winners Jack Nicklaus and Ouimet.
It’s the first time Englishmen have won the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in the same calendar year.
And it was a victory 100 years in the making.
Vardon was already a five-time British Open champion — and Ray had won in 1912 — when the 1913 U.S. Open was delayed several months so they could play in it. Ouimet, who lived across the street and caddied at the club, was an unheralded amateur whose playoff victory over the British pros became the foundational event in American golf and turned The Country Club into the Plymouth Rock of putting.
With his 10-year-old caddie — turned lifelong friend — Eddie Lowery, Ouimet’s victory helped spread the sport beyond the realm of gentlemen and foreigners and turned the historic course into a veritable Plymouth Rock of putting.
A century later, Fitzpatrick came to The Country Club and became the first English champion of the U.S. Amateur since Harold Hilton in 1911. And he did it with his 14-year-old caddie — an irony that wasn’t lost on the Fitzpatrick brothers or the 5,200 in the gallery that followed them along the 7,188-yard, par-70 course.
“I also think it’s quite strange that I had my little brother on the bag, and most people have been saying we’re a bit like Ouimet and Lowery,” said Matt Fitzpatrick, who came into the tournament as the No. 2 amateur in the world. “We’re both really small. I kind of see the resemblance.”
Goss beat stroke play co-medalist Brady Watt in the semifinal and then drafted his fellow Australian as a caddie for the final. The 19-year-old Goss, who plays college golf at Tennessee, also gets an exemption into the U.S. Open and a likely invitation to the Masters.
“I’ve definitely got a couple weeks that I’ll keep open in my schedule,” Goss said. “If someone told me at the start of the week I was going to have the opportunity to play the Masters and the U.S. Open next year, I’d be speechless. I wouldn’t be able to believe it.
“I was there this year after a college tournament — we got Monday tickets to the practice round — and it was golf heaven. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I stood there, and I was like, ‘How do they play under this kind of pressure and with the difficulty of the golf course?’ But I’m really excited to be able to play there next year.”
The USGA has completed the Walker Cup team with the addition of five golfers. Those making the team are:
∎ U.S. Amateur Public Links and Western Amateur champion Jordan Niebrugge,
∎ Four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith,
∎ 2012 U.S. Amateur runner-up Michael Weaver,
∎ Bobby Wyatt, a member of Alabama’s 2013 NCAA championship golf team, and
∎ Todd White, who has competed in 11 USGA championships, including four U.S. Amateurs and one U.S. Open.
The 10-player team will represent the United States in the 44th Walker Cup against Britain and Ireland on Sept. 7-8 at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y.
Previously named to the team were Max Homa, Michael Kim, Patrick Rodgers, Justin Thomas and Cory Whitsett.