TOMMY FLEETWOOD has earned his place among the riches of the European Tour – but it is not the money that is driving him on to new heights.
Instead it is the thought of creating golfing history that inspires the young player from Southport.
The 20 year-old cites the likes of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer as sporting heroes – players who have dominated their peers and amassed a remarkable collection of titles to their name.
Having already ensured that he will be remembered as the number one amateur player in the world in 2010 and then occupying the same lofty role on the second tier European Challenge Tour rankings in 2011, Fleetwood now wants to make his mark on the game’s biggest stage.
“I’ve not modelled my golf swing on anyone in particular, but Tiger Woods is a hero of mine,” says the Formby Hall player. “I have grown up watching him making history.
“Roger Federer is another who has made history in his own sport while in golf Rory McIlroy has the potential to do the same and it is great to have grown up in an era with those kind of people around.
“At the Dunhill Championships, I got the chance to play Padraig Harrington, a three-time Major winner. It was a great experience just watching him play, and learning from how he goes about his game. I wasn’t sure of the right time to speak to him, but in the end he chatted to me and it was helpful to be able to ask him questions.”
Fleetwood admits that it is the winning – not how much he wins – that is his motivating factor.
“It is the buzz of being competitive and being in the mix to win on the final day,” he adds. “To be honest, in the past if I was not in the mix on a Sunday I did have problems motivating myself.
“That won’t happen this year because one of the things I have learnt as a professional is that every shot counts, especially when you are playing to keep your card. Perhaps as an amateur you can get away with a couple of mistakes a round over the course of a tournament, but now that would mean me going home early.
“I love the feeling of winning and the money, while nice, does not really matter. We have never really had a lot of money as a family so while the riches on offer would be good, it is the thought of winning that keeps me going.”
The fact that it is the golf – not the money – that means Fleetwood remains focussed on chasing the top prizes means he will have to learn how to manage his schedule. Such is his enthusiasm to play, that in his rookie year Fleetwood took part in a few events when tired or carrying a bit of an injury.
“I am the sort of player who wants to be out there, but if I find my game is suffering I will take a break,” says Fleetwood, who found that when he did take time out to cure a niggling back problem this year it did him the power of good.
“But I enjoy playing and I don’t want to miss out on any opportunities.”
That means Fleetwood won’t tailor his rookie 2012 programme on the European Tour around certain events, but he is looking forward to playing in showpiece tournaments like the PGA Championship at Wentworth and taking a shot at qualifying for the Open at Royal Lytham and possibly the US Open, too.
He will stick to the tried and trusted team that have helped his career so far, although dad Pete, who has been on the bag at several Challenge Tour events, will move over for a full-time caddy in Scott Barnes.
Fleetwood will continue to see long-term coach Alan Thomspon at Heswall, putting guru Phil Kenyon and former Italian Open winner Jim Payne, at Southport and Ainsdale, whose advice has been instrumental in his rise through the amateur ranks to the highest level of the professional game. Acknowledging that the game is every bit a mental challenge as physical, Fleetwood will continue to lean on Brian Hemmings, who he has worked with since his days with England and the English Golf Union.
And the ultimate dream?
“Winning an Open at Royal Birkdale would be just fantastic!”
And that really would cement his place in golfing folklore.