U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick surprised many Thursday when he announced that he was withdrawing from Northwestern after just one semester on campus. The No. 1-ranked amateur in the world will return to England to “dedicate 100 percent of my time to the game,” he said in a school release.
In August, Fitzpatrick capped a sensational summer by becoming the first Englishman to win the U.S. Amateur in more than a century. A month earlier he had earned the silver medal as the low amateur at the Open Championship, where he tied for 44th.
During his brief stint at Northwestern, the 19-year-old Fitzpatrick shared medalist honors at the Rod Myers Invitational and added another top-3 finish in five starts.
“I very much enjoyed my experience at Northwestern,” he said in a statement released by the school. “… Based on the opportunities I have right now from a golf perspective, I feel it is important to dedicate 100 percent of my time to the game and have decided to withdraw from university in the U.S.”
The news caught many off-guard, not least his head coach, Pat Goss. Considering by many to be one of the best college coaches in the country – he’s largely responsible for turning Luke Donald into one of the best short-game players in the world – Goss said in a phone interview that he was very surprised by the decision because he had only received positive feedback from Fitzpatrick and his family.
“The surprising part for us was how much his family valued education and how important it was to them during the recruitment at Northwestern,” Goss said. “His family and Matt had nothing but espoused the value of education here.”
After winning at The Country Club, Fitzpatrick’s father, Russell, told GolfChannel.com that the family had a four-year plan in place, no matter what transpired.
“Whatever he eventually wins,” Russell Fitzpatrick said at the time, “that’s the best prize he’s got. A great education. … If he decides to play professional golf someday, he has no pressure because he knows he has a fallback option. If he turns pro after one year and it doesn’t work out, and he doesn’t have a degree, if he’s just a flash in the pan, then what’s he go with?”
Said Goss: “Obviously we would have liked to see him stay longer, but the reality is if Matt Fitzpatrick loses in the Round of 8, he’s still here in school. He and his supporters became pretty convinced that the opportunities in front of them were pretty important, and the best way to pursue them was at home.”
When he returns home, Fitzpatrick will continue to work with coaches Mike Walker and Pete Cowen. Goss said that “instructionally, we had done almost nothing with Matt.”
Provided he stays amateur, Fitzpatrick will have exemptions into the first three majors of the year, as well as likely invitations to other Tour events.
“Those were things we were working with him on,” Goss said. “We had prepared a schedule that we could do that. We knew there’d be a few events without him this spring.”
Now, Goss will head into the spring season with his team ranked No. 34 in Golfstat’s team rankings, but without one of the biggest headliners in college golf. The Wildcats, who won two titles in the fall behind Fitzpatrick and senior Jack Perry, will resume play Feb. 14 at the Big Ten Match Play Championship.
“Having Matt Fitzpatrick was a positive experience,” Goss said. “We recruited a player who was the 11th-ranked player in the world at the time, and he went on and achieved great things. We wish Matt nothing but the best and appreciate the time he was here.”