It took a century but England got even with 1913, The Country Club, Francis Ouimet, and all that. The only thing missing was a Yank, but nobody on the other side of the Pond was quibbling after Matt Fitzpatrick, a self-described “short, and light” product of Sheffield, carved up Oliver Goss, his taller, heavier, and older Australian counterpart, to win the 113th US Amateur title, 4 and 3, Sunday afternoon on TCC’s estimable grounds.
“It’s great to go down in history,” the 18-year-old Fitzpatrick said after he’d become the first Englishman to win the world’s most important amateur crown since Harold Hilton beat Fred Herreshoff in 1911. “That’s sort of what everyone in golf wants to achieve.”
While the victor didn’t earn as much as a greenback dollar for his seven days of work here, including the 36-hole final, he collected a bagful of precious goodies — the Havemeyer Trophy, a gold medal, and guaranteed entry into next year’s Masters, US Open, and British Open. All that plus his upcoming golf scholarship to Northwestern, where the rack rate is $45,000 a year. “It’s just fantastic,” said Fitzpatrick, who’s the fourth-youngest champion. “I feel great at the minute.”
There was, of course, the lovely bit of historic turnabout. When Ouimet, the 20-year-old amateur homeboy, won the Open here in a playoff, the odd men out were a couple of His Majesty’s subjects, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, the planet’s two best professionals. This time, after no American made it to the semifinals for the first time, it became a British Commonwealth affair with two Aussies, a Canadian, and Fitzpatrick, who’d been the low amateur at the British Open and was the favorite coming in as the planet’s second-ranked amateur after Pan Cheng-tsung.
He’d dispatched four US rivals along the way, though, all on the 15th hole, and when Fitzpatrick put kid brother Alex on the bag, he knew he’d be hearing chatter about Ouimet and Eddie Lowery, his 10-year-old caddie. “Yeah, I can see there’s a sort of resemblance, I guess,” Fitzpatrick said.
The difference was that Ouimet won under a stroke format and Fitzpatrick by match play after 7,003 entrants were reduced to 312 who made it here and 64 who survived the first two days. On a course that punishes those who miss fairways and overshoot greens, getting down by a couple of holes makes for a slow bleed-out.
That’s what happened to Goss, who had to scuffle after giving up the lead on the 11th hole in the morning, but who squared the match after Fitzpatrick three-putted the first in the afternoon. When the Aussie double bogeyed and bogeyed the next two, he sensed the championship slipping away. “To give up two holes straightaway was crushing,” said the 19-year-old Perth native, who’s a rising sophomore at Tennessee and who had countryman Brady Watt, his semifinal victim, as his caddie. “It was quite big in the match.”
The way Fitzpatrick was putting, he knew he needed only keep making his number to squeeze the life out of his rival. “I felt that there was a bit of a buffer zone, I guess,” he said. “And if I could just carry on making pars — it’s so hard to make birdies out there — just pars would hopefully win me holes.”
Fitzpatrick gave up one hole when he bogeyed the ninth, but got it back when Goss lipped out the 10th. For a moment, when Goss soared a beauty out of the rough on the 14th hole, he had a chance to get back to within one. “I thought I hit an amazing shot into the green and it just bounded through the back and was tucked against the collar of the long grass,” Goss said. “I had a really bad lie and there really wasn’t much I could do.”
When the ball came out briskly and ran down well past the cup, Goss was looking at bogey. Fitzpatrick rolled in his fifth straight par and went 3 up with four to play. “To go 3 up was the big swing,” he said.
Goss, though, had one more nice shot in him, a chip from the rough between the bunkers on 15 that rolled to within a few feet of the cup. But after Fitzpatrick curled in his par putt, Goss lipped his and it was done before Fitzpatrick had to deal with the bunker on 17 that undid Vardon and subsequently was named for him.
“This is incredibly special,” Fitzpatrick said, gazing at the gilded trophy. “There’s some amazing names on it and the first name I see is obviously Mr. Woods.”
Fitzpatrick plans on staying amateur for a while after he enrolls at Northwestern next month. Next up likely will be the Walker Cup against the Yanks, but he’ll see Mr. Woods, Mr. Mickelson, and their wealthy colleagues at Augusta and Pinehurst next year. “There’s no doubt about it,” Fitzpatrick reckoned. “Things are probably going to change.”John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.