Watch out for Marcus Armitage in the Open Championship at Carnoustie.
The 31-year-old from Howley Hall, who lives at Skelmanthorpe, has qualified to take on the world’s best at the tough Scottish venue and tees off at 12.04 in the first round.
His journey to this point is an inspiring story which started sadly, when Armitage left school at the age of 13 after the loss of his mother Jean to cancer.
Four days days past his 31st birthday, Armitage, now a pro with European Tour experience, makes his major debut in The Open.
Born in Salford and brought up in Rossendale, the only way the young Armitage found he could cope with his grief was to take up golf.
He bade farewell to All Saints High School in Rawtenstall and joined Oldham Golf Club.
He says: “All I did was play golf every day and some of the club members took me under their wing, particularly the best player, a wonderful guy called Alan Squires.
“Alan taught me all I knew as a kid. I learned from watching him and playing golf with him and he gave me my first advice on my pitching and chipping, how to shape the ball and how to get round the course.”
Armitage’s teenage mentor Squires, now 69, is a former England amateur international and three times Lancashire champion who won the English Seniors title three years in a row between 2010 and 2012.
Alan still plays off scratch – a handicap he first achieved 46 years ago – and represented the Oldham club as an amateur in the Open, at Birkdale in 1976.
“It was a mystery what happened with Marcus’s schooling” said Alan, now a member at Saddleworth.
“He was simply this likeable lad with a good sense of humour who invariably was dropped off at the Oldham club by his dad Phil at 8am and picked up at 6pm whether it was term time or school holidays.
“One of the first things he did, the cheeky little blighter, was march into the pro’s shop and ask who was the best player at the club.
“When he found out it was me he just kept on and on badgering me to teach him what I knew and to play golf with him.
“He was so receptive, competitive and thorough it soon became a pleasure and he quickly became an excellent striker of the ball. Marcus lived solely for golf, always playing or practising.”
Starting his professional career on the Manchester-based 1836 Tour and becoming 2013 Rookie of the Year on the Europro Tour, Armitage is currently on the Challenge Tour.
He is well placed in the Order of Merit to launch a push and regain the European Tour card he lost last year.
He’s a Manchester United fan – his favourite all-time player is Eric Cantona – and fondly remembers his days in the Lancashire Boys team alongside, among others, three players also teeing off at Carnoustie in Tommy Fleetwood, Jack Senior and James Robinson.
After a short spell at The Manchester Golf Club, Marcus moved across the Pennines when he was 18 and joined Howley Hall, near Batley.
He has become such a well-liked figure in the sport the club have made him an honorary life member.
This is an honour the Howley Hall club have also bestowed on his friend Danny Denison. Both are winners on the Challenge Tour and Armitage admits that in their amateur days Danny was the better player, two years older than him, and became his benchmark and his inspiration.
Denison’s hopes of a lucrative career on the European Tour were ended by a car accident in Austria 10 years ago in which he broke both legs.
Now he has a top job with Nike as their Footwear Representative and is also at the Open, looking after the needs of players such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Fleetwood, Jason Day and Paul Casey.
Denison said: “Marcus obviously has skills in all areas, but his ball striking tee to green stands out.
“He has always been dedicated to improving. Marcus just loves his golf.”