It is likely that much of the pre-tournament publicity for this week’s British Masters will focus on Tommy Fleetwood. And why not? He has been playing some sensational golf over the past few months, not least in the Ryder Cup in Paris last September, and he is the official host of the tournament. But one player you may want to look out for is not a seasoned tour pro. In fact, he’s not a pro at all. In fact, the 16-year-old amateur Conor Gough, from Stoke Park Golf Club in Buckinghamshire (a course made internationally famous as the setting for the James Bond golf match in the movie version of Goldfinger), will on Thursday be teeing it up in his first professional start.
Gough has enjoyed a sensational amateur career, winning tournaments including the Fairhaven Trophy and the McGregor Trophy last year, plus the British Boys’ Championship, a title he won at Royal Portrush by defeating his Spanish opponent, José Luis Ballester (who sounds a couple of letters short of being a great golfer), on the 35th green. “I feel incredible,” he said afterwards. ”It’s a dream come true.” And it’s one that looks set to continue.
He is presently ranked the 11th best amateur golfer in the world. In March, he was a member of Georgia Hall’s team at the Major Champions Invitational (MCI) in the States, an event created by Nick Faldo to provide opportunities for under-18 golfers from all over the world. Against 35 other boys, Gough shot rounds of 68-65-68 and emerged as the individual winner by three shots. He played the last five holes in two under par.
Official World Golf Ranking
“He has a good reputation with the other kids at MCI and he holes everything,” said Faldo. “His swing looks nice and solid.” Then, he added with a chuckle: “He must be confident in himself with that haircut” – although Gough’s tonsorial appearance may not be the same in Southport as it was in Florida!
Gough’s nascent career is looked after by Golfing4Life, whose James Byers emphasized that despite Conor’s obvious and immense potential, he has not played so much golf this year. “We have to realise what age he is. Right now he’s focused on his exams.”
The Walker Cup takes place at Royal Liverpool in September. It begins two days after Gough’s 17th birthday. If he makes the team of ten for Hoylake – he is a member of the 26-player squad the R&A announced last month – he won’t be quite the youngest player to represent Great Britain & Ireland (that was Oliver Fisher in 2005), but it will be another step on what looks likely to be a stellar career. There will assuredly come a point after which exams do not get in the way of his golf.
Remember – the name’s Gough. Conor Gough.
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