Conor Gough has confirmed he wants one more crack at the Walker Cup in 2021 before he even considers trading the amateur ranks for a professional career.
The 17-year-old English Men’s Amateur champion has the golfing world at his feet after a year in which he started to realise his outstanding potential as one of England’s, and indeed Europe’s, top talents.
Already hailed as one to watch after winning the British Boys’ Championship and McGregor Trophy in 2018, Gough’s stunning victory at Hankley Common in August confirmed his status as one of the rising stars of world amateur golf.
That win earned him a slot in the GB&I Walker Cup side which lost to a strong USA team at Royal Liverpool in September.
Gough will finish 2019 ranked as Europe’s top male amateur.
He is currently rated number three in the world.
Yet Gough is remaining grounded and for now puttting all thoughts of a pro career to one side to simply ENJOY his game and focus on schoolwork at St Joseph’s College in Berkshire.
Gough will also enjoy hanging out with his mates, spending time with his girlfriend and playing county football.
For Gough, the correct balance in life will improve his golf in the long run and it’s hard to argue with such a mature approach from a laid-back young man with wisdom beyond his years.
After attending a session with the England boys’ squad at Woodhall Spa, Gough said: “I am 100% sure that I won’t be turning pro before the Walker Cup in 2021 no matter what my results are like next year.
“I want to do as much as I can as an amateur. There’s no rush to turn pro. I’m only 17.
“I will just keep on playing golf.
“No-one will change my mind on what I want to do. No-one can tell me differently.
“Right now I don’t need to think about anything other than getting up in the morning to go to school, practice after school and then playing in my competitions.
“It doesn’t need to be complicated.
“I have to keep it simple and keep on winning.
“At the end of the day it’s a game to be enjoyed. I’m only 17 and there’s no point stressing. I just go out and play.
“I know for a fact that all golfers miss out on things because they have to be dedicated. But if I have a week between competitions during the season I don’t play.
“I just go out and see my mates, see my girlfriend and just make sure I don’t miss out on a social life.
“I want golf to be my career, but there are other things in life to consider.
“I’d love it to be my job and I do work hard at it. But if you focus everything on golf it will have a negative impact.
“It messes up the balance which everyone needs. I definitely play other sports to take my mind off it – you have to.”
Gough could have joined fellow 17-year-old Ben Schmidt in the England men’s squad for 2020, but will stay with the boys’ set up to allow him to split time between his ‘A’ levels and golf.
For the youngster from Stoke Park, this is a wholly sensible option.
“Ben has got a lot more freedom with his education. I’m doing ‘A’ levels for the next two years,” added Gough who is studying sociology, sports science and business.
“You have to get through them – if golf doesn’t work out I have to have a Plan B.”
When chatting to Gough, there is no hint that he is one of the most talked-about amateur golfers in the world.
He’s as chilled as they come with a positive attitude, a polite manner and a keen focus on what he needs to do to make the most of his ability.
Take his week at this year’s English Men’s Amateur as a case study.
Gough knew he needed a big week to boost his Walker Cup credentials. He fine-tuned his game, sharpened his mind and delivered when it mattered most.
“I was very focused on what I had to do that week,” he said.
“I feel like every time I have to do something big, I focus in a different way.
“I was playing very, very well and had one outcome in my mind. That was to win and that’s what I achieved.
“I didn’t put myself under pressure, but I knew I could win.
“I don’t think there was anyone there that week who could have beaten me the way I was playing.”
Gough is currently plotting his schedule for 2020 and working on his game with England Golf coaches such as Rob Watts and Mike Kanski.
He may have ended the year flying high in the rankings, but he takes these things with a pinch of salt.
“It’s definitely a very nice feeling to see my name at the top of the European rankings,” said Gough.
“Last time I looked I was also world number three.
“But I don’t think of myself as the third best in world. I just go out to win.
“When I go to a big competition there’s a genuine feeling that most people in the field can win, but it does give me an extra boost to know that I’m rated highly.
“I’m in the middle of planning for 2020 now and looking at the different goals I want to achieve.
“Everything is geared towards that 2021 Walker Cup.”
Photograph credit: Leaderboard