“Tommy has made us feel like we’re all on the journey with him. He is opening doors for other children to follow him too”.
Following Tommy Fleetwood’s recent performance at the PGA BMW Championship, Merseysportlive spoke to his former youth coach, Norman Marshall.
Marshall first met Fleetwood when the current world number 16 was just six years old. From there he went on to coach and develop him for a number of years.
Marshall, a former pro himself, got into the sport when he realised a footballing career wouldn’t be possible.
After turning to golf, he qualified as a golf professional in 1993 and was awarded a Titleist Golf Scholarship for outstanding success, finishing 2nd in the UK, in his final PGA exams.
Currently coaching at Formby Hall Golf Academy on Merseyside, the Royal Birkdale trainee says he “owed it to sport, golf and the little boy, I often recognise as me, in shy children”.
Marshall also says his motivation to get into coaching “was to pass on the gift of a spark of confidence and self-belief to other children”.
Over the years he has taught many successful youngsters, including Tommy Fleetwood, two juniors to the World Championships, three to the European Championships and the UK Kids top six-year-old.
With so many success stories from his tutelage, Marshall says his secret is to make his sessions enjoyable for the child participating.
“What I do is to stay in touch with my inner child and think, ‘what would I have enjoyed?’.
“As a boy with no confidence, I try to be the person I most needed to meet.
“In terms of methodology, I reach golf by turning all its various skills and departments into games.
“Starting at child friendly target shootouts, Minecraft, Fortnite, Star Wars targets to sophisticated scoring games that lets advanced juniors see how the world’s best golfers would perform at the same game or drill.”
To this day, there is no doubt who Marshall’s star pupil is.
Tommy Fleetwood has now been on the professional scene for a few years and is currently in the top 20 male golfers in the world.
However, it may come as a surprise that the Southport-born pro was not a standout player when he first met his old coach.
Instead, Marshall puts the 29-year-old’s success down to his mentality.
“The remarkable thing any elite performer must possess is inner drive, fuelling work ethic and resilience.
“An overlooked trait. Tommy came last in his first comp and went around in 129.
“That would have been the end for lots of kids.”
Marshall is still currently coaching at Formby Hall Golf Academy.
Now, following the rise of his most famous student, he is not only getting more work, but he is noticing a higher level of player coming to him.
However, as a coach this is not necessarily what the former pro wants.
After over 20 years in the role, he continues to see budding golfers come to his sessions and Marshall likes to see the development of those new to the sport.
“As Tommy’s profile increases, I get more advanced golfers coming to see me.
“I really take pride in non-golfers learning a new sport and being able to be part of the journey for young children and seeing them reach the summit of world golf.”
Now, Fleetwood runs an academy of his own.
The Tommy Fleetwood Golf Academy is run at his old course at Royal Formby Golf Club and has been open since May 2019.
With his rising success, opening of his academy has been a great way to keep in touch with those who helped develop his game.
Those around the Formby course see this as just one of the many ways in which Fleetwood has expressed his gratitude for the role he has played.
Meanwhile, the likes of Norman Marshall say the 29-year-old has never forgotten the role of those who taught him and helped him get to where he is today.
“Tommy has made us feel like we’re all on the journey with him.
“He is opening doors for other children to follow him too.”
Fleetwood will next be in action at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia as part of the PGA Tour.
The tournament will run from November 12-15.
He will be hoping to put up an improved performance from this month’s BMW PGA Championship where he finished 15th at nine under par.