Marcus Armitage lets his emotions show after winning The Porsche European Open
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
The tears of joy just keep on flowing on the European Tour. Marcus Armitage won his maiden title in Hamburg on Monday and, with his voice cracking and his ducts leaking, spelt out exactly what it means to this wonderfully unreconstructed character who left school at 13 and who contradicts every tired cliche about the sport.
If 48-year-old Richard Bland’s breakthrough on his 478th start two weeks ago was a reward for persistence, then the Armitage story is another reminder that following your dreams does not need to be a forlorn pursuit.
Twenty years ago, the Huddersfield boy with an undiagnosed form of dyslexia lost his mother, Jean, to cancer and could no longer stand the endless days of sitting in a classroom and thinking of his grief.
He found golf to escape the pain and from then did not look back, giving up the textbooks he never understood for the yardage books which offered him salvation.
“Since I lost my mum 20 years ago, I’ve dreamt about this every day, about being a winner,” he said, with his bottom lip in full quiver after lifting the Porsche European Open title. “You have days where you think it might not happen, but I just stuck at it. Today is a great day and I’m sure she would be proud.”
There is so much in his journey to provoke admiration. Armitage, a portly figure who seems forever to be smiling, got himself down to scratch by the age of 15 without having a single lesson and turned pro at 19.
"20 years ago I lost my mum and I've dreamt about this since that day" 😢
An emotional Marcus Armitage spoke after claiming his first European Tour win at the Porsche European Open today. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/Rx9z8ip7Ai
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) June 7, 2021
There followed a decade on the mini tours, eking out a living with shifts on a building site. The hard labour took him to the Challenge Tour and from there to the European Tour in 2017, where he soon established as himself as a fan favourite.
The Tour’s much-lauded social media team certainly liked what they saw, featuring Armitage in a few skits, the latest being setting a new Guinness World Record for the longest shot (303 yards) caught in a moving car.
Yet while his previously threadbare finances were transferred beyond recognition – last year he told Telegraph Sport that the £70,000 he earned for finishing third at the South Africa Open would help to pay off “some” of his debt – a hole in his ambition remained.
Back-to-back top 10s in Kenya and Austria earlier in the season saw him jump into the world’s top 200, while his eighth in Denmark a week ago Sunday was further indication that he was close. The form was there and he never had lacked the inspiration.
Beginning the day four off the lead at the Green Eagle Course – the event was shortened to 54 holes and its start postponed to Saturday to allow players and tour staff from the UK time to deal with Germany’s Covid-19 travel restrictions – Armitage stormed through the field with a 65 to finish on eight-under. It was enough for a two-shot win over countryman Matthew Southgate, Belgium’s Thomas Detry, Italy’s Edoardo Molinari and Dutchman Darius van Driel.
The victory was given added lustre by defending champion Paul Casey being two further back in a tie for sixth. Not that Armitage required any more stardust.
“I’m an emotional guy and struggling to keep a lid on it here. I was just trying to breathe and be calm, not touch my phone because that will be going berserk,” he said.
“I’m thinking about everybody at home – my fiancée and my dad. Everybody in my team that’s helped me. But this one’s for me.
“All those days on my own dealing with life, all those lonely days on my own working on my dream… I think I’ve got to take a lot of credit for it myself.”
There is plenty for Armitage to haul back to his home village of Shelley. As well as a cheque for £150,000, he netted a place in next week’s US Open at Torrey Pines, his first major on American soil.
The US media and fans took to Andrew “Beef” Johnson – another British golfing one-off – a few years ago and it will be interesting to see how they respond to this unashamed Yorkshireman. The first thing they might do is discover how he came by his nickname, “The Bullet”.
“Someone said I should have a nickname, so I told my bag-maker to put ‘The Bulldog’ on the side,” Armitage told Telegraph Sport. “When it came back I looked at it and said: ‘The f—— Bullet? What’s that about?’ But it stuck and I believe everything is for a reason. That’s why I’m here.”