European Tour stars Matt Wallace and Matt Fitzpatrick have gone back to their roots to encourage, inspire and advise the next generation of English golfers.
The former England Golf graduates took part in separate online Q&A sessions with current players, coaches and staff and captivated their audiences with tales on their careers and anecdotes from life on tour.
Wallace (pictured above) has expressed a desire for his unconventional route to the top to inspire England Golf’s current performance squads.
Speaking from his base in Florida, world number 43 Wallace relived his amateur days, his trials and tribulations grinding away on the Alps Tour and then his breakthrough with victory at the Portuguese Open in 2017.
Among the many questions posed were some from players such as Lottie Woad of the England Girls’ squad, current Portuguese amateur champion Harry Goddard, England Men’s squad player Jake Bolton and Brabazon Trophy winner Ben Schmidt.
Fitzpatrick – a five time winner on Tour and a member of the 2016 European Ryder Cup team – was keen to stress how important it is for players to take nothing for granted and to realise that hard work can be the key to success.
During a detailed and insightful interactive session, the Yorkshireman fielded questions including those from girls’ squad member Rosie Belsham, Women’s Amateur Champion Emily Toy and men’s squad players Charlie Strickland, Charlie Thornton and Jack Brooks.
Now a member of the PGA Tour, Wallace later explained just why he was happy to meet the request of Performance Director Nigel Edwards to speak to the rising stars of the English game.
“I feel it’s important for the players to realise there can be more than one way to reach the top,” confirmed Wallace from the renowned Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound.
“I was in the England Golf set-up, but kind of on the fringes of it and always pushing for attention.
“The year prior to my involvement with England, the squad was amazing. Then a number of guys turned pro at the same time – Tom Lewis, Andy Sullivan and Steven Brown included – and I came in from nowhere to the elite squad.
“I maybe didn’t feel as if I’d earned my stripes and didn’t back myself as a golfer as much as I should.
“But I gave it everything, was proud to be in the set-up and enjoyed good experiences in places such as Argentina and the Czech Republic.
“When I didn’t get picked for and England v France match and knew that my chances of Walker Cup were slim, I decided to turn pro.
“I was then grinding away on the Alps Tour for four years with people saying you can’t be that good if you are four years on the Alps Tour!”
Fitzpatrick enjoyed a terrific amateur career – the highlight being when he won the US Amateur Championship in 2013 at the Brookline Country Club with his brother on the bag and then qualified for the GB&I Walker Cup team later that same season.
He also won the silver medal for top amateur at the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield.
The 25-year-old – currently riding high at 25 in the world rankings and pictured above during the online session – admitted: “It was great to be a part of the England Golf set-up as an amateur and I wanted to be able to give a little back in terms of advice.
“I worked with some great coaches – Steve Robinson, Graham Walker and John Jacobs among them – and the structure and focus of the England Golf sessions were great for me.
“I remember my first session at Woodhall Spa when Graham told us all we were to be up for a run at 7am the next morning! But I liked that discipline and planning that went into every aspect of our coaching.
“The message I wanted to get across to the squads was that golf isn’t easy and to remember that while you can compete at national level, there are kids in Spain, Sweden and all over the world working just as hard to make the top.”
Fitzpatrick’s ‘play smart’ approach to golf was a theme of his session while his thoroughness in preparation from practice round technique, physical conditioning through to on course strategy was strongly evident.
During his frank Q&A session, Wallace spoke with real honesty about the memory he had of one day sitting on the couch at his parents’ home and reflecting on where his career was heading at the age of 24.
His friends had good jobs and houses and he was living at his parents ‘winning 50p on the Alps Tour’.
Having asked himself if he still wanted this sort of life aged 27, Wallace set about changing into a player ‘who would stop at nothing’ to reach the top.
Wallace added: “My dad always encouraged me to act like a sponge with information knowing that at any time you could squeeze out things that you didn’t like or which weren’t appropriate.
“It was great to do this Q&A and I hope some of the things I said were of use to the England players.”
In the coming weeks, Tommy Fleetwood, Chris Wood, Danny Willett, Bronte Law and Meg McLaren are among a host of professionals who will pass on knowledge to England’s class of 2020 as they continue to learn during a restricted period of lockdown.