Tommy Fleetwood is an English professional golfer who currently plays on the European tour. Coming from a humble background from the North West of England, he quickly became one of the best amateur golfers in the world after competing in the 2009 Walker Cup, the 2010 Spanish Amateur and many others. Tommy later turned professional and won the Challenge Tour in 2011, and joined SK Sports as a sponsored player and brand ambassador. Since then he has broke through the to the top 50 players in the world and has achieved several professional wins.
I started out playing golf ever since I was in primary school. It was a very personal and family activity for me and it was something I always enjoyed playing. I played it a lot and by the time I was 14 I was in the English national golf team. At that age I wasn’t really thinking about turning professional, it was just my favourite thing to do and it was the thing I was always best at. I was not very good at other sports and I found it difficult balancing doing what I loved and enjoyed (golf) and making sure I had a back up plan via education.
In 2003, I was playing in a local golf academy called “Leisure Lakes” and I met a man called Simon. We both had our hands on a driver that was not available on the market at that time and we bonded over the experience.
The following year I joined Global Sports Management (now SK Sports) with Simon acting as a management platform to help me to achieve my goal of becoming number one.
Unfortunately by the time I was 16 I hadn’t done enough to do anything else and continued my path to becoming a golfer. It was a big gamble in my life as I didn’t go to college and played golf full time. It was make do or fail at that point, because if I failed then I would have wasted 2 years of my life and would have to go back to college. I did get funded in that time by the English Golf Union though which helped me a lot.
I progressed through the different levels of the national team; U16 to U18 and then to mens. The main thing as an amateur is the Walker Cup which is a 10 person team with Great Britain and America competiing against each other. I competed in the 2009 Walker Cup and while that is the arguably biggest amateur event in the UK, I decided not to turn Professional after it as I felt I was not yet ready. Many people actually decide to turn professional after competing in the Walker Cup regardless of whether they are ready or not.
Playing for England was a big step and for me to progress as an amateur, it was all about getting into teams to improve. There are of course many individual tournaments that would be good to win as well. I made it to the final in the 2008 British Amateur, won the English Amateur and there are countless other competitions around Europe and the world.
I turned professional near the end of the year when I was 19 in 2010. It was the end of my amateur career and I had accomplished everything that I wanted to. By then I was #1 Amateur in the world and so the only way forward was to turn professional. I had to learn my trade and it became a living for me. There are several tours once going down this route, the European tour and the Challenge tour which is a similar format to the Premier League and Championship. I ended up winning the Challenge tour in 2011 and so I moved onto the European tour (main tour) where I really struggled for a year. I just about kept my card. I could have ended up going to a lower tour but fortunately I didn’t have to. The next year I ended up winning the 2013 Johnnie Walker and I never looked back.
My first year on the main tour was incredibly hard for me. I had never really struggled performance wise before. I had gone from #1 Amateur to #1 on the Challenge tour to nearly losing my card on the European tour. That was the first time I had ever been in a position where for 7 months I was useless and I didn’t know how to deal with it. Fortunately I still had 3 months to go where I managed to play well and scraped my card. I was in the bottom 5 places to keep my card out of 120 players. If I had not kept my card I don’t know where I would be now because I would have gone back to Challenge tour, and if you’re not top 20 on that then you don’t make it back to the main tour and you can go on this vicious cycle but I got through and never looked back.
It’s so easy to spiral downwards, especially if you don’t put the work in. It has happened to me this year already (2015) but on a very small scale. I peaked 47th in the world, being the first time I have broken through the top 50 but the next thing I know I am 79th within 4 months after losing a bit of form, confidence and game. Due to that loss in performance I am missing major tournaments and things like this just happen. but what is important is how you pick yourself up during the down times.
Sponsorship and Opportunity
Opportunity has played such a big role in my life. Plenty of people don’t have the opportunity that could probably make it to the tour and you see it, you see it all the time. Golf itself is considered to be a very rich man sport because of the expenses of clubs, membership of a club and all the extra gear. You either have that or you need to get good enough to get help from someone or a manufacturer. It is not as simple as getting a football and improving. In short, opportunity is everything. When I turned Pro in 2011, I had nothing guaranteed. I was invited to play in 5 tournaments but I had no status and without that you are not able to enter any competition you’d like. I had to play from invites and make enough money to then be able to play for the next year on that tour. If that wasn’t accomplished then I am down on lower tours with less opportunity and prize pools covering your trip which isn’t an easy life in any sport.
In terms of support, I had a lot from my family and GSM (now SK) in my amateur days. When I turned professional and got onto the European tour I was sponsored by SK and Nike. There was a time when turning Pro that was not financially comfortable for me and the support that I needed financially was there. Without the money to do it, I just would not have been able to make it. I would have had to do something else because golf was something I couldn’t afford and I would not have gotten anywhere. SK played a massive part in giving me an opportunity when turning Pro.
When I was an amateur I was already using Nike equipment and they helped supply me with clubs which was a big help having not to spend a lot of money on a new set of clubs or golfing gear. When I turned professional the opportunity was already there for me due to my relationship with them in my amateur years.
Like I said, opportunity can play a massive part in anyone’s life but I feel an important thing in life is to struggle. Only then will you really know what it is like on the other side. For example, my family and I had to spend all our money on petrol to travel to competitions in the South of England when I was 12. You will get an appreciation and an understanding of what it has taken and with hard work, your time will come. When mine did, it was not as if we had a lot of money when I turned Pro. I got funding from SK and Nike but if I had played bad then that funding would not always be there. When your opportunity comes, try and snatch it up as well as you can. All the hard work you do when you have nothing is still important as long as you have a goal. My goal was to get onto the European tour and to accomplish and do the things I am currently doing now. I have always had these goals on my mind even when I had no money or anything, I would still practice 6 or more hours a day. Just because I had no money then or we were spending all our money on golf related things, whether it is me playing or practicing. In the end I knew I was doing it for a reason and eventually I made my way forward.
I am still changing as my life goes on, but there is one thing that I would like to say as some advice. Whatever it may be that you are doing, you have to choose the right qualities. It is all about good habits, as the sooner you create them and stick with them, the better. You will keep your habits for a very long time whether it is something as basic as being polite. I would say just work hard, have good habits, be thankful and kind and you’ll find your way.