EUROPEAN Tour professional Marcus Armitage has fought back from the brink of bankruptcy to pull off the best result of his career.
The 32-year-old, a player who learned his craft on local courses, finished third in the South African Open, a European Tour event, to pick up more than 82,000 euros.
Yet Armitage, who also held a Tour card in 2017, revealed how imperative it was to regain it for 2020 at the European Tour’s QSchool.
Armitage, who competed on the lesser Challenge Tour after losing his European Tour, said: “Last year I had a bad year and ran up debts of £100,000.
“If I had not got my Tour card back at QSchool, I would have made bankrupt.”
Armitage added it costs £100,000 a year to compete on the European Tour. And though he has already won that amount this year, he explained it was not all profit as tax and coaching fees must be deducted.
Of his success in the South African Open, Armitage said: “It was nice to get that close, but I want to win.
“It has given me confidence and in the last fortnight I have had two solid finished in Qatar and Oman.”
Armitage finished third in the South African Open behind winner Brandon Grace and runner-up Louis Oosthuizen, two of the sport’s biggest names.
He explained: “People say to me about finishing behind them, but they are where I want to be.
“I want to become one of those names.”
Armitage needs to finish in the top 110 on the Tour to keep his card and prevent returning to QSchool – he is currently 55th. However, if he wins a tournament, he automatically keeps his card.
“Like Tiger Woods said ‘winning solves everything’ which is my favourite quote,” he said.
Armitage shot rounds of 65, 72, a career low 62 and 69 to finish five shots behind South African Grace.
But the birdie he posted at the 72nd hole from 15 feet to snatch outright third place also earned a place at The Open, which will be played at Royal St George’s in July.
Armitage had to wait until the age of 31 for his debut at The Open in 2018 when he had to qualify for Carnoustie where he almost did not compete after injuring his shoulder 10 days before the event doing an indoor sky dive, a Christmas present.
“It was a great experience to play in The Open, the biggest tournament on the planet. I tried to focus on it being like any other tournament and prepare the best I can to win it,” he said.
Nobody follows Armitage’s career more closely than Saddleworth Golf Club member Alan Squires who has been mentoring him since the age of 13.
Moorside-based Squires, a former England amateur international, was a member at Oldham Golf Club when Armitage, aged 13, sought him out.
Squires, who won the English Seniors’ Championship three years in a row from 2010, said:
“Marcus was always a confident young lad. He was only aged 13 when he arrived at Oldham and went to the professional’s shop and asked who was the best player at the club.
“When he found out it was me, he kept on and on badgering me to teach him what I knew and to play golf with him.”
Scratch player Squires, who played in the Open at Birkdale in 1976 as an amateur, continued: “When I saw Marcus on the course I thought ‘wow this lad can play’.
“Aged 14 he was hitting shots I had never seen anybody so young doing. You could see he was something special.
“It doesn’t surprise me he has done so well and every time I see him he tells me I am his hero, the player who taught him to chip and putt.”
Armitage added: “Alan took me under his wing from an early age.
“I have always looked up to Alan who has always found time to help me.
“I never had any lessons, but he showed me so much when we on the golf course together.
“He never spoke much, but I learned from watching how he hit shots and I made pictures in my head.
“The problem when you have lessons is the professional tells you what to do which has never been for me. I simply wanted to ask what I wanted to know and play golf.”
Squires added Armitage has learned from 2017, the other year he competed on the European Tour.
He continued: “I still talk to Marcus every week and am pleased to see him doing so well.
“Once you get on to the Tour it is about making cuts and picking up money which he is doing.
“He is well liked on the Tour with a perfect temperament, serious on the course and funny and relaxed off it.”
Squires added it was indicative of Armitage’s confidence that he practised with Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood at Carnoustie before the Open.
He said: “You can put your name on the board to practise with anybody and it was typical of Marcus that he picked McIlroy and Fleetwood.
“On his second practice round he went for top Americans Jason Duffner and Ricky Fowler, but they declined his request.”