Fitzpatrick hoping to follow in brother’s illustrious footsteps

Alex emulates Major champion Matt by starting his professional career with a sponsor’s invitation into the Irish Open

You wouldn’t call the little brother a chip off the old block; there’s the beard for starters, and Alex Fitzpatrick is the gregarious type – not afraid to have a quip against himself, or others.

But there is another golfing connection between the two brothers. Matt, newly crowned US Open champion, started his professional career with a sponsor’s invitation into the Irish Open. That was in 2014. Eight years later, it is Alex’s turn to jump into the professional pool with a similar exemption into this latest edition at Mount Juliet.

A two-time Walker Cup player and recent graduate of Wake Forest University where he excelled in collegiate golf, Fitzpatrick may yet see more doors open with sponsors’ invitations given his brother’s improved status but the exemption into the field here came before that win at Brookline and without preconditions.

“I found out two, three weeks ago. I was incredibly excited. It’s funny, following in your brother’s footsteps, but sometimes that isn’t a bad thing, especially the route that he’s gone. Hopefully it might open a few doors [on the PGA Tour] but, if it doesn’t, I still have to play good golf and if I don’t play good golf, then the doors will be shut. It’s just all about enjoying myself and working hard and hopefully get some good results,” said Fitzpatrick who has previously had experience of pro events (when playing as an amateur) in the Cazoo Open in Wales last year and earlier this season at the Valspar Championship.

That development through the US collegiate system is one that Fitzpatrick believes will benefit him as he steps into life on tour.

“I think college personally is probably the best way to go for players who want to develop and be ready for the professional game. You get used to flying all the time, play great golf courses and practice at amazing facilities all day . . . I felt like I developed nicely by being out there, and don’t know if I would be the same player if I had stayed [in England].” he said.

As for the Fitzpatrick name and any Irish connection? It’s a distant one.

“My granddad’s dad was in some way Irish. I’m an eighth Irish, whatever that consists of. Yeah, I would claim myself as being a little Irish [if] that will help with support this week or whatever.”

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times