Dave Coupland is gearing up for the US Open
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
In less than two years, Marcus Armitage and Dave Coupland have gone from sharing an Airbnb room at £25 per head at a lowly French tournament to having hundreds of thousands in the bank and teeing it up at the US Open where Sunday’s winner will collect £1.6 million.
England’s odd couple are marching on Torrey Pines with their long-held dreams at last unfolding after so many years of struggle.
Armitage and Coupland are contrasting characters. The former is the life and soul, the personality who never stops being personable, with a quip and a giggle for every occasion; self-belief is on draft. Coupland, meanwhile, is shy and introspective and while he clearly possesses a dry sense of humour, he is the type minded only to show it off on occasion. Coupland has to lean hard on that pump for confidence.
In terms of perseverance, however, they are remarkably similar and this shared trait of never giving up the chase is why they have bonded in their journeys. Armitage is 33, after 14 years a pro and six visits to Q School. Coupland is 35, after 10 years a pro and seven visits to Q School. Late developers, maybe, but what an inspirational pair of pictures they are developing.
“Yeah, we’ve both come a long way since that Open de Bretagne in 2019,” Coupland tells Telegraph Sport. “That place we stayed in was in the middle of nowhere and I remember us being starving and going to a garage where all they had were bars of chocolates. So that was our tea. We knew where we were heading, however.”
Armitage has the most notable inroads and indeed earnings. Since the start of 2020, the Yorkshireman they call “The Bullett” has accumulated more than £500,000 and two weeks ago won his first European Tour title, the European Open. In emotional scenes, Armitage recounted a personal tale of tragedy, grief and salvation. He lost his mum at 13, left school immediately and found peace with a club in his hands – a love affair which he has never let go. Coupland also started at 13.
“Marcus’s story is incredible and uplifting and could be a film,” Coupland says. “To come through what he has and be up there taking on the world’s best must be a motivation to everyone. He’s brilliant to be around, always smiling and he comes out with some brilliant one-liners and stories I could never tell a journalist. A right laugh. I’ve known him since the amateur days and we have the same manager. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t tried to tap into his optimism. We both love the game and know we are good enough. I’m just more reserved, that’s all.
Marcus Armitage won the European Open in Hamburg two weeks ago
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
You would not think so, if you saw the Lincolnshire golfer fist-pumping on the 18th green at the Belfry last month. Having holed an 80-footer for eagle on the par-five 17th, stood over a curling downhill 40-footer or birdie on the last. “From 12th to third in six shots and one crazy half-hour,” he says. “And then on the journey home, it started to dawn on me.”
The near £100,000 cheque almost doubled his career Tour earnings and it sent him hurtling up the mini-order of merit from which the top 10 were to net spots in the US Open. “I have only been to America as a kid to go to Disney, never played there,” he says. “My dad (Paul) will be on the bag and it is a bit of payback. He introduced me to the game, although he didn’t really want to play and got persuaded by his workmates. But my parents have been there for me throughout. You know, my story is not like Marcus’s.
“It is much more straightforward and I’m lucky I guess. I did work experience with the greenkeeping staff at my club, did a course, became an assistant greenskeeper and loved just being at the course. I was never away from it. I got to play a lot and got better and better, represented England, qualified for the Open at Carnoustie [in 2007] but it was only when I was 26 that I decided to go pro.”