YORKSHIREMAN Danny Willett’s dramatic win in the Masters spearheaded a remarkable display by English golfers at Augusta that is set to inspire a new generation of players.
New champion Willett was accompanied in the top 10 by Lee Westwood (tied second), Paul Casey (tied fourth), his fellow Sheffielder Matt Fitzpatrick (tied seventh) and Justin Rose (tied 10th).
All five players have been involved with England Golf, either as champions or team players – or both.
“This is inspirational,” said Nigel Edwards, England Golf performance director, as he reviewed Willett’s wonderful performance, carding a blemish-free 67 in the final round to hold off Westwood and leave no way back from a 12th-hole calamity for defending champion Jordan Speith.
“Who ever said golf was boring?” added Edwards, who has captained two GB&I Walker Cup teams to victory.
“All the media are going crazy about this and hopefully we can have another surge, as there was for European golf in the Eighties and Nineties.”
Willett's success has thrown the spotlight on English golf and the work of England Golf, supported by clubs and counties, to create champions.
England Golf’s training programme offers coaching and playing opportunities to the country’s most talented players to help them develop their skills.
For Willett that included trips to Australia – where he won the Australian stroke play championship – and to Spain, where he won the Spanish amateur before turning professional as the world No 1 amateur.
“Ultimately the performance is down to the player, but many of them have said that the opportunities they have had along the way have been outstanding – whether it’s from a junior organiser at their club, someone running county events, someone offering regional coaching, or the chance to play for England or going to the Walker Cup or Curtis Cup,” continued Edwards.
“Our England Golf ambassador, (former US Open champion) Justin Rose, has said that the opportunities England gave him when he was young, to compete around the world, were crucial to his development.
“Obviously, it’s down to the player, whether they have the heart and the will to put in the hard work, whether they have the desire. But everyone contributes.”
Edwards’s words were echoed by Graham Walker, the lead coach to the England Golf men’s squad. He was Willett’s coach for over a decade, taking him from a two-handicapper to the world No 1 amateur.
“For an Englishman to win the Masters is just fantastic and it should be an inspiration to lots of players coming through. But they have to make sure they work at the right things,” said Walker.
“Danny had an insatiable appetite for work and for good information. I had good information and he was willing to work very hard. That’s a recipe for success.”