Adventurous Alfie Plant Seeks Different Kind of Thrill This Weekend
September 8, 2017 | Los Angeles
By David Shefter, USGA
When Alfie Plant arrives at the first tee on Saturday in the 46th Walker Cup Match at The Los Angeles Country Club, there will likely be a few nerves. Everyone feels a few butterflies when competing for your country.
But don’t expect the 25-year-old from England to be petrified.
Not when you’ve come face to face with sharks, bungee-jumped from a 700-foot bridge, parachuted from a plane and run a marathon.
Meet the most adventurous member of the 2017 Great Britain and Ireland Team.
“Trying to tick off everything on the bucket list,” he said.
Golf seems tame to this thrill seeker, who said he’s interested in checking out one of Los Angeles’ newest attractions, a 45-foot slide that goes around the US Bank Building from the 70th to 69th floors.
“If I’ve got a bit of time, I might do it,” said Plant.
The low amateur in this year’s Open Championship and 2017 European Amateur champion said his biggest adrenaline rush came bungee-jumping off Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa. The world’s highest commercial bungee bridge is 709 feet above the Bloukrans River.
Plant didn’t see his life pass before him, but he called it the greatest adrenaline rush he’s experienced.
And that came the same week he got up close and personal with sharks. While representing England Golf in a tournament in South Africa, Plant decided to mix in some offshore thrills. He had watched films on sharks and been terrified, but it didn’t prevent him from signing up for the tour. As the cage was being lowered, Plant, who donned a wetsuit, oxygen tank and goggles, felt something nipping at his feet.
“I went, ‘Whoa, whoa!’ There was a tiny, little fish.”
The main event didn’t disappoint. Tour operators attracted the sharks with bait and a couple came right at the cage. Plant could clearly see their beady eyes and sharp fangs.
“You are scared,” said Plant. “[The shark] is looking straight at you. The biggest one was probably seven meters (23 feet).”
A few years earlier, Plant wanted a way to honor his grandmother, Diane Cooper, who had passed away. He chose to run the London Marathon. Of course, that meant training, sometimes in cold, windy conditions. There were days Plant didn’t want to run, and he admitted his training wasn’t perfect. But he completed the marathon in 4 hours, 13 minutes.
“I probably won’t do that again,” he admitted.
Plant’s parents would prefer he not jump out of planes anymore either. For his 16th birthday, Plant went skydiving. “They weren’t pleased,” said Plant.
As a child, Plant had dreams of playing soccer. He’s a big fan of Millwall, a small southeast London club that competes in The Championship, the second tier of English football, and he carries a flag of the club in his golf bag. But he soon realized he didn’t have the physical tools to play at a high level.
So Plant gravitated to golf and went to work honing his game. His father, Darren, said Alfie has always done well with ball sports. “Really good eye-hand coordination,” said Darren. “He’s really good at ping pong.”
It took some time, but Plant finally started seeing major results in the past few years. A runner-up finish in the 2015 English Amateur led to representing England in the 2016 World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico. He then recorded his breakthrough win via a playoff in this year’s European Amateur at Walton Heath outside of London.
That landed Plant in The Open Championship, and a phenomenon was born. With more than 150 supporters in his gallery, Plant posted opening rounds of 71-73 and was the only amateur in the field to make the cut. Suddenly the small house he rented in Formby swelled from four to 16 inhabitants.
“There were so many people there,” said Plant. “That was right up there with [bungee] jumping off a bridge.”
Fans fell in love with #TeamAlfie, and his story. A kid from humble means who spent the last four years delivering the mail – his mom, Emma, works for the Royal Mail and Darren is a courier for a delivery company – to supplement his competitive golf had garnered the Silver Medal as the low amateur.
Plant told The Guardian newspaper, “We’re normal, working-class people from Bexleyheath, so anyone can do it. It has got its struggles, it’s been tough over the years but it’s all worthwhile getting here.”
His performance certainly caught the eyes of the Walker Cup selectors and he was one of five Englishmen named to the GB&I side. Plant made the decision that this will be his amateur swan song, even though he’s eligible to play in next month’s U.S. Mid-Amateur, where the champion receives a likely Masters invitation.
Plant was caught off guard when the USGA contacted him two weeks ago to garner his interest in competing at Capital City Club in Atlanta. He politely declined, saying the time was right to take his game to the professional ranks. He will enter European Tour Qualifying School in the coming weeks.
“People think I just woke up and [my game] is great,” said Plant. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years. It’s just been a slow process and now it’s just starting to tie together.”
Some 19 family and friends, including his girlfriend Daisy – he smiles when the name is mentioned – have made the long trek to support him this week in Los Angeles.He would love nothing more than to reward them by helping GB&I win a second consecutive Walker Cup on Sunday afternoon.
It would be the perfect ending to his amateur career – and one more item to check off the bucket list.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.