This year marks the centenary of the first playing of The R&A Boys’ Amateur Championship – with past champion Matthew Fitzpatrick still savouring the experience he enjoyed.
It was back in 1921 when the first Boys’ Amateur Championship was held at Royal Ascot – with Scotland’s Donald Mathieson victorious – and a long and rich history for one of golf’s most prestigious amateur championships has followed.
Played annually in Great Britain and Ireland, it has consistently attracted the best junior male golfers from around the world and former winners include Sir Michael Bonallack (1952), Howard Clark (1971), Ronan Rafferty (1979), José María Olazábal (1983), David Howell (1993), Sergio Garcia (1997), Tom Lewis (2009) and Adrián Otaegui (2010).
Runners-up down the years also include Sandy Lyle – the 1985 Open champion and winner of the 1988 Masters Tournament – Rafa Cabrerra-Bello and Eddie Pepperell, who lost the all-English final to Lewis at Royal St George’s in 2009.
After his successes in the Boys’ Amateur, Bonallack also went on to win The Amateur Championship in 1961, 1965, 1968, 1969 and 1970.
As the players in the talented under-18 field look forward to this year’s staging at Royal Cinque Ports, Fitzpatrick has highlighted his love for the Championship.
It was in 2012 when Fitzpatrick, now 26, started to make his name in the sport, winning the Boys’ Amateur with an emphatic 10&8 success over Henry James at Hollinwell.
Oozing confidence, Fitzpatrick went on to claim the Silver Medal as leading amateur at The Open at Muirfield in 2013, aged only 18, and represented Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup that year.
Pinnacle growing up
Speaking on The Open Conversation podcast, he said, “I’m obviously very biased, because I managed to win the tournament, but I probably see the Boys’ Amateur, as well as the US Junior Amateur, as the two biggest junior events in the world. That was always the pinnacle when I was growing up and started playing these tournaments.
“The Boys’ Amateur is an amazing week. It’s a long week, you end up playing a lot of golf, but you don’t even think about that when you are 16 to 18-years-old. You just get on with it, you just want to play and try and win. It’s an amazing tournament and the way it’s run is obviously so professional from The R&A – it’s second to none.
“I think I remember my first one was up at Kilmarnock (Barassie) and I made the cut and got knocked out in the first round, but it was such a big deal to me that I had made the cut in the first place. The following year I lost in the quarter-finals at Burnham & Berrow and then, in my third year, I ended up winning it at Hollinwell.”
Fitzpatrick continues to enjoy an impressive professional career, which has already seen him win six European Tour titles and make a Ryder Cup appearance back in 2016. He also posted a top-20 finish in The Open at Royal Portrush in 2019.
Yet, he continues to hold his Boys’ Amateur title in high regard – not least because of the amusing story he recalls on the eve of the Final.
The Sheffield player added, “For me, it was quite funny, because Hollinwell was only 40 minutes away from where I lived, so I actually had a lot of family members and sort of home support in the final. I do remember, actually, my dad told me a funny story. The night before, I was a little bit nervous, for sure, because it was the biggest tournament that I had been involved in.
“My dad said, ‘don’t worry about it because statistically, what I’ve looked at, is that the runners-up tend to actually go on and do better things in professional golf.’ I was like ‘oh, really, wow, that’s great.’ So that settled my nerves the night before a little bit. Fortunately, I was nine up through 18 so I was in cruise control. I managed to win 10&8 which made life a lot easier, less stressful for sure. A few days later, I asked ‘was that true about the British Boys, dad?’ He said, ‘no, no it wasn’t’. He just made it up! It helped though and I know some runners-up have gone on to good careers too.”
Watson at Muirfield
The following year, Fitzpatrick’s dream 2013 season also included winning the US Amateur Championship. At Muirfield, he posted a tie for 44th to beat Jimmy Mullen to the amateur prize, rubbing shoulders with top names and further developing his belief to succeed in the sport.
Fitzpatrick, whose younger brother Alex is also a Walker Cup player, said, “The Open in 2013 was an unbelievable week for me. In practice rounds, I played with Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Tom Watson. Obviously, literally only four years earlier Tom had lost in a play-off to win the Championship, so it was very, very surreal.
“In the last round I played with Fred Couples. That was just very, very relaxed. It was just an amazing experience for me, really. To be able to make the cut and finish with the low amateur honour was brilliant. Winning that certainly kicked on my golf career. It’s a week I’ll obviously always remember.”
The Boys’ Amateur champion earns exemptions to the Amateur Championship and Final Qualifying for The Open, highlighting further the appeal of one of golf’s great championships.More info on the