It only seems like a just a few years since a young Tommy Fleetwood was taken under the wing of PGA professional John Watson, writes David Birtill.
Back in the day, the Southport-based prodigy who finished runner up in the Open Championship in Ireland, would have been first to admit he owed a chunk of his early success to the Cheshire-based professional.
“His dad Peter approached local businessman Nigel Compsty, my colleague in our on-course management company, and asked if we could help his nine-year-old so,” recalled Watson.
“Tommy was obviously a talented player and one of the first events we invited him to was a PGA North Region pro-am at Fairhaven.
“Nigel generously provided his dad with a car and funding to help take his son to various tournaments up and down the country.
“On one occasion, during a trip to Wentworth, he met Denis Pugh which was a real thrill for the lad. And he won the competition as well!
“Sky Sports also did a feature on him at Southport & Ainsdale which was a revelation for people who did not know him. We also took Tommy to a major golf retailer to ensure he had sufficient gear. By then he was 11 and obviously very talented but our relationship came to an end after three years or so when it became obvious we couldn’t do much more for him.
“We’d like to think that down the line we helped him to get where he is today. Without us, who knows, he might never have made it!”
But Watson admitted: “I didn’t offer to coach him – I couldn’t find a single flaw in his swing. The way he hit the ball told us he was always going to be something special.
“I remember him playing in the Lytham Trophy when he was about 17 and I was working for England Golf. He shot 67 in the first round which did not surprise me in the slightest.
“The next time I saw him was at the Masters and he wandered over and thanked Nigel and myself for what we did for him in the early days.”
Watson added: “The three of us are hoping to get together again to play nine holes for old time’s sake at Formby Hall. That would really be something to write home about.”
Meanwhile, PGA Advanced Professional Watson, who has based himself at Styal for the past few years, has a passion and is at the cutting edge of the game. He specialises in golf bio-mechanics and holds one of only two GBD licences in UK.
In his spare time he is the England regional coach for the West Midlands U18 squad and a PGA tutor for registered trainees.