U.S. AMATEUR
Brother’s 2013 Feat Resonates More Powerfully With Fitzpatrick August 13, 2019 | Village of Pinehurst, N.C. By Stuart Hill

Alex Fitzpatrick's quest to join his brother, Matthew, as a U.S. Amateur champion begins against James Sugrue, of Ireland. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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In 2013, Alex Fitzpatrick caddied for older brother Matthew during his victorious U.S. Amateur Championship. Not until reaching last year’s U.S. Amateur quarterfinals in his first attempt, though, did Alex fully appreciate the process of his brother’s win.

A year after winning the U.S. Amateur, Matthew Fitzpatrick earned low-amateur honors in the 2014 U.S. Open here at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2. In the final round he shot a 1-under-par 69. Once again, Alex did not grasp the difficulty of Matthew’s accomplishment until practicing and playing a competitive round in this week’s 119th U.S. Amateur.

“To be honest, it was such an impressive thing that he did at the U.S. Amateur,” Alex said of the week at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. “And having played and made a run last year, I have a better idea of what it took for him to win.

“But I’m even more impressed with the scoring he did here [at Course No. 2] as an amateur. That last round was an unbelievable round for someone who hits it 260 or 270 off the tee. To have long clubs into these greens is unbelievable.”

Matthew Fitzpatrick, who has won five times on the PGA European Tour, posted rounds of 71-73-78-69 on No. 2 that week in 2014. On Monday, Alex Fitzpatrick shot a 2-over 74 on No. 2 to finish at 2-over 142 and advance into the 64-player bracket, where he is the No. 24 seed and takes on James Sugrue of the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday.

Maturity has also helped Alex Fitzpatrick, 20, of England, realize what an asset he has in Matthew. And that was not always the case.

“When I was a bit younger people were like ‘How’s Matt doing? Where is he this week?’” said Alex, who is four years younger. “I was like can you leave me alone? But you get used to that. The older I get I become a bit wiser about going and asking him for advice, because he knows so much about the game and has been through it all.

“And I understand how nice it is to have that kind of access because not everyone has that privilege to text someone about what do you think of this or that. He’s always been there for me when I’ve had a question.”

This week, Fitzpatrick, No. 37 in the World Amateur Golf RankingTM and a sophomore at Wake Forest University, hopes to combine the best of big brother’s championship run with his equally impressive play on No. 2. While Fitzpatrick is pleased with his play through stroke play, his game throughout the summer has not been as sharp as last year. In 2018, Fitzpatrick was runner-up at the Spanish International Amateur, fourth at the Irish Amateur Open Championship and reached the U.S. Am quarterfinals.

“My golf fluctuates a lot, should we say,” he said. “If I have a good putting day, then my golf is normally pretty good, and I would like to think I am starting to get a bit more confidence in myself. I feel like I can score well around these courses and perform in the bigger events. Last year sort of showed that I could do it, so hopefully I can take that into this week and get one or two steps further.”

To address his consistency on the greens, Fitzpatrick sought the feedback of noted European instructor Phil Kenyon following an abysmal putting performance at the The Amateur Championship conducted by The R&A in late June.

“I desperately needed to do something about my putting,” he said. “There was a little bit of stroke work, but mainly we worked on green reading. I was so far out on my seeing putts. God knows how much time I put in on the putting green those three weeks after, but it seemed to help.”

Aside from a 17th-place tie at the English Men’s Amateur Championship earlier this month, Fitzpatrick’s only proof that his putting is improved are this week’s stroke-play rounds. Fitzpatrick’s reads of the greens are being confirmed by his caddie, longtime Pinehurst looper Doak Michael, and that is bolstering his confidence.

Fitzpatrick will also draw on his own run a year ago at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

“You can take away a lot from that really,” he said. “You’ve always got to grind because you never know what the outcome might be. And I think I was good at that.”

But can he be better this week?  

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA digital channels.

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