Marcus’ birdie blitz at Saddleworth

EUROPEAN Tour professional Marcus Armitage hit an amazing eight-under-par 63 at Saddleworth where he came to play alongside member Alan Squires, his first mentor.

It was a masterclass from the 34-year-old who earlier this year claimed his first ever Tour victory in the Porche European Open and picked up a cheque for £180,000.

And days after his appearance at Saddleworth, Marcus competed in the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre, Switzerland, where he tied for seventh place.

That prize money helped Marcus, who has risen to 130th in the world rankings, reach another milestone, career earnings of £1 million.

Back to Saddleworth and Marcus visited for a friendly four-ball as he and Jonny Fancy took on Alan and Nick Marner.

And it was a match which had a sizeable gallery as between 40 and 50 Saddleworth members came out to witness the event.

Alan, still a scratch player aged 72, mentored Marcus from the age of 13 when both were members at Oldham.

He said: “What an amazing player Marcus has become. The members who came out to watch had never seen ball striking like that on our course while his putting was unbelievable.

“On the par five opening hole, Marcus hit a tee shot of 298 yards and then a five iron from 214 yards to the middle of the green for a birdie four.

“Such is the distance that Marcus hit the ball that all our par fives were par fours and birdies to him.”

Marcus had nine birdies and one bogey and Alan said he could easily have been 11-under-par.

“Between Marcus and Jonny, they were 11-under-par. It was a joy to be on the course with him,” he continued.

Alan lost contact for about 12 years when Marcus switched club only for them to be reunited in the most bizarre fashion.

Alan went to Tour X Golf, Wigan, where Marcus also goes for club fitting.

He said: “By chance Marcus went in for a fitting and saw my name and number on a piece of paper on the desk as I had left a message.

“The next minute my mobile phone went. It was Marcus and since then we talk almost every week. It was weird how he got my number and we got back in touch.”

It wasn’t Marcus’ first visit to Saddleworth and he had previously done even better returning a nine-under-par 62.

Alan added Marcus, one of the most popular and likeable players on the European Tour, remains humble and had so much time for the juniors on his visit to the club.

He continued: “Marcus told me he was recently driving past Oldham Golf Club and he looked at the second green and remembered practising chip shots with me.

“He doesn’t forget his past, and I am so proud of him. It is not work to him, he loves playing golf and the members here love him.

“When Marcus came into the clubhouse afterwards, he received a round of applause. He was taken aback saying he doesn’t get such a reception at his own club.”

It has been a year to remember for Marcus who has also competed in two majors, The Open at Royal St George’s, Sandwich, and US Open at Torrey Pines, California, where he made his debut in America.

It was far removed to the 13-year-old Marcus who would badger Alan to mentor him.

Alan said: “Marcus went into the pro’s shop at Oldham wanting to know who the best player in the club was.

“He was playing off nine aged 13 and told me he would be off three next year, then scratch and then get on to the European Tour.

“He has done what he told me he would do aged 13 and I admire him because he has achieved what he set out to do.

“If I was practising on my own in the sixth hole, he would come over and join me.”

It has not been a straightforward journey as Marcus lost his Tour card and only regained it at the end of 2019.

Alan said: “I remember playing a round with Marcus and he told me he had £40,000 debts and I wondered how he slept at night.

“Marcus always had great confidence in his ability and fair play to him for what he has achieved.”

In fact, at one stage Marcus ran up debts of £100,000 and was on the brink of bankruptcy in pursuit of his dream of establishing himself as a top player, admitting it caused depression.

Those have been cleared and Marcus, now looked after by a management company, can concentrate fully on his golf.

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