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Tommy’s academy to provide a local legacy

IN LESS than a week the spectators will have dispersed, the temporary stands will have been dismantled and the TV cameras will be focussing their attention elsewhere.

But Tommy Fleetwood wanted to ensure that when the European Tour rolls out of his home town there will be some kind of legacy for the golfing community.

Which is why, amid the scurry of promotional activity as the frontman of this week’s Betfred British Masters, the Southport golfer announced plans for his own academy programme.

Its aims are simple – to offer the kind of pathway into the sport for juniors that Fleetwood enjoyed as he took his first golfing steps on his local municipal course while also broadening the game’s appeal.

The Tommy Fleetwood Academy is being hosted at Formby Hall Golf Club, just a few miles up the coastal road from Hillside, which is staging its first European Tour event since 1982 this week.

Fittingly, it will be led by Fleetwood’s first coach, Norman Marshall.

The intention is to blend the discipline and etiquette of the sport with a fun-filled and accessible approach.

“Golf has taught me many valuable lessons along the way,” said Fleetwood, “lessons that I continue to learn each and every day. I am truly grateful to be in a position to give something back and give kids the opportunity to learn and enjoy the game that I love.

“Guidance is so important when you are learning the game and Norman Marshall played a significant part in my development as a junior golfer. His enthusiasm and passion for junior golf are outstanding and I am delighted he is involved.

“It is important that we balance the discipline and etiquette of golf while having fun and learning new techniques. We hope to deliver this and establish a system that can be replicated globally.”

Fleetwood’s elevation to the world stage will, no doubt, serve as an inspiration for those who sign up.

The 28-year-old is now ranked 16th in the world on the back of an increasingly impressive cv which includes four European Tour titles, the 2017 Race to Dubai title, a runners-up spot at the US Open and a vivid Ryder Cup debut in which he formed a formidable partnership with Open winner Francesco Molinari.

This week seems him as the poster boy of the British Masters, but in an area that has to rely on the rotation of the Open itself to enjoy top professional golf, his role – alongside the flurry of work undertaken by Hillside – means fans can enjoy Europe’s best slugging it out over one of the country’s best links courses.

Fleetwood himself is ready to enjoy a few home comforts and the luxury of a tournament on his own doorstep. But he knows the pitfalls of being the home favourite after opening up with a 76 in the first round of the Open at neighbouring Royal Birkdale in 2017.

“It’s a different atmosphere when so many people are behind you and you want to do well for them, it’s not just about you,” he explained. “You want to put on a great performance for your town and the people that come to watch you.

“It’s different pressures but I’ve learnt from it and I’ve grown since then. That was my first season where I was starting to contend in Majors. There’s so many different things that have happened since then that I’m way more used to.”

After effectively coming to the rescue of the British Masters with Hillside’s assistance this year, Fleetwood has worked hard to promote the tournament. But today the talking stops – and it’s time to deliver. And he just can’t wait.

“I want to do really well – I am not just here to be host,” he said. “I want to put on a good performance but I know everybody here is going to make this event one of the best of the year.”

Fleetwood’s demanding global schedule will see him returning to America next week for the US PGA Championship, and while he would normally take a week off ahead of a Major he hopes playing at Hillside could give him the perfect springboard for New York.

“I get an extra week in my own bed and I’m not ever going to complain about that,” he said. “Who knows? I normally have a week off before the Majors and I haven’t won one yet.  Maybe playing the British Masters the week before might be the turning point.”