Jack Cope insists he will not feel any pressure stepping onto the tee as the reigning English Men’s Amateur champion.
In fact, the Gloucestershire golfer will enjoy the experience safe in the knowledge that victory last year helped take his game to a new level.
Cope always felt he had the game to win big.
When he claimed a 4&3 win against Royal Lytham’s Callan Barrow in the final of the English Amateur last year at Woodhall Spa, that point was proved.
Ever since that win, Cope has played with a renewed confidence.
Gone are the fears that blighted him in 2019 when he was told a wrist injury may force him out the game.
Instead, there was a new level of confidence which was to the fore again earlier this summer when he won the St Andrews Links Trophy on the famous Old Course.
Now as he returns to defend his national title at Headingley and Moortown golf clubs, Cope is not weighed down by expectation.
Instead, he’s buoyed by the excitement of testing himself against the best players in the country and knowing he is capable of winning.
“There’s no extra real pressure on me,” confirmed Cope who has also won a place in this year’s England’s men’s squad on the back of his 2020 English Amateur success.
“I don’t think that I should play well just because I’m defending champion.
“People may take notice of me now, but I’m capable of dealing with all that.
“I always knew I was a good golfer, but this championship proved that I could win and not just compete.
“I believe it has led to success I’ve had this year. To win at St Andrews was very special. To hold a trophy standing on the Swilcan Bridge with the clubhouse in the background is one I will cherish forever.
“The English Am last year was a moment of realisation for me.
“I drove it very well and was in good position off the tee. I got the pace of the greens early and didn’t three-putt too many times
“I can get quite streaky with putting so hopefully this year I can get my eye in early and take it from there.”
Whoever emerges victorious this week will have had to endure a tough week to get his hands on the prize.
After two rounds of stroke play the top 64 progress to a tough series of match play games that culminates with a 36-hole final on Sunday.
Cope knows that it’s a week that saps energy levels and being smart on and off the course is the key to success.
“It’s a balance of rest and recovery,” he confirmed.
“After playing last year I would shower, get dinner and be back earlyish.
“You can’t be out late socialising and you have to stick to a process off the golf course.”
The English Men’s Amateur Championship has a proud history dating back to 1925.
Past winners include Sir Nick Faldo, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood and Danny Willett.
“I took the trophy home last year and it was on display in the trophy cabinet at the Players Club in Bristol,” said Cope with pride in his voice.
“The members were happy to see it there and have all been very supportive of me – it’s nice every time you walk past it to think that I won it and there are some big names on it.
“If I could follow what they’ve done in their careers, I’d be very pleased.”
Photography credit: Leaderboard