VIDEO: Inspire a new generation? I’m still a starstruck kid, says Matt Fitzpatrick

With a momentous victory in the British Masters on Sunday, his first European Tour win, Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick joined fellow Steel City golfer Danny Willett in blazing a trail for South Yorkshire in a sport where our region has struggled to deliver for quite some time.

But for 21-year-old Fitzpatrick, who only turned professional a year ago and earned his Tour card at the tail end of 2014, the idea of inspiring a new generation of Sheffield golfers is something the Hallamshire starlet admits he finds a little strange.

Matt Fitzpatrick holds the British Masters Trophy aloft at home club Hallamshire GC

Matt Fitzpatrick holds the British Masters Trophy aloft at home club Hallamshire GC

That’s because, despite being regarded as one of European golf’s brightest young talents, the former Tapton School pupil still pinches himself as he jets around the world, taking part in tournaments that find him surrounded by superstars of the sport.

“It’s funny...I’m only 21 so I almost feel like one of those kids,” said Fitzpatrick, on a trip home yesterday following the weekend success at Woburn.

“I’m still starstruck when Rory (McIlroy) is in the tournament and I’m playing in the same one and Ricky Fowler this year at the Irish Open...just people like that playing in tournaments.

“The Italian Open is a great example; I was staying in the same hotel as Martin Kaymer and Miguel (Ángel Jiménez).

Matt Fitzpatrick during the final round of the British Masters

Matt Fitzpatrick during the final round of the British Masters

“I’d come down for breakfast and I don’t know how I came across. I was like ‘er, yeah... morning Martin’. I was thinking, ‘it’s Martin Kaymer, he probably doesn’t even know me.’

“He said ‘morning Matt’ and just for me... I was watching him holing the winning putt at Medinha at the Ryder Cup, it was so surreal.

“Words can’t describe how weird it is for me to be on first name terms and hold conversations with people like that.

“It’s great and hopefully I do inspire people to play golf.”

Matt Fitzpatrick celebrates his British Masters triumph alongside brother Alex and mum Sue

Matt Fitzpatrick celebrates his British Masters triumph alongside brother Alex and mum Sue

It’s that down-to-earth Yorkshire trait that has seen Fitzpatrick become a popular member of the Tour, which is, naturally, a hugely competitive arena.

“Everyone’s been great with me,” he said.

“I’ve been really lucky. I think my experiences in the Majors, playing with the guys, the best players in the world, I’ve managed to meet a lot of them and pick their brains when I was an amateur. I think they have appreciated me speaking to them about stuff like that.

“I class myself as pretty lucky in that no one has ever said a bad word to me or anything like that and likewise I would never say a bad word about anyone because they have been great with me.

“So yes, my time on the Tour so far has been good.”

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Fitzpatrick’s introduction to life on the Tour was pretty tough, not least because his impressive amateur record meant people were watching and waiting to see how he would find life among the sport’s elite.

A number of missed cuts proved how big the step up is, however, he maintains that throughout the opening tournaments, he remained positive and confident his true form would eventually emerge.

“I ignored the hype (surrounding earning a Tour card),” he said.

“It was more for me personally - I was disappointed to be missing cuts, I just wanted to do well.

“I felt like I was good enough to be there and to miss cuts by one was really disappointing.”

He added: “I missed five cuts, maybe, this year by one. One shot is such a small thing.

“I’ve missed a short putt or I’ve hit a tree and gone behind a tree and had to chip out and all of a sudden if I hole that putt or I don’t hit a tree I’m three shots behind the leader. It’s just something as simple as that that can change it around.”

“I try not to look back and say ‘I wish I’d have done that differently’. Someone said if you try your best and it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out.”

Victory on Sunday fired Fitzpatrick to the top of the very early qualifying points table for next year’s Ryder Cup.

The 21 year old, of course, would love to be spending part of next September at Hazeltine in Minnesota under the captaincy of Darren Clarke, but it’s a little far down the line to be taking up too much of his thinking.

“I’m going to get that from now until the Ryder Cup,” he said. “Obviously it would be a a nice goal to have but it’s not my main focus.

“My main focus is trying to get into the top 50 and try to get to Augusta and the Majors and world golf championships and just keep climbing the rankings.

“As long as I keep doing that, I know I’ll be in an alright position.

“It’s the same with the world rankings and winning, if I play the best I can and that results in a win, it’ll all come with it. It’s not like I’m desperate to do this, desperate to do that.

“Obviously I’d love to do it but I’m more bothered about just playing well and it coming along with it.”