AFTER six weeks of constant travelling, EuroPro Tournament player Marcus Armitage was grateful for the chance to spend a few nights sleeping in his own bed.
Starting today, the Howley Hall star will look to make it two wins in a row in an event being staged in his own ‘backyard’.
The Clipper Logistics Championship gets underway at Moor Allerton and breaks new ground – it is the tour’s first 72-hole event and will carry Official World Golf Ranking points.
Armitage lifted the GRENKE Championship at Cumberwell Park, in Wiltshire, two months ago and last Friday won the Tree Of Life Championship at Close House in Newcastle.
With three tournaments left to play, he stands fourth in the Race to Desert Springs standings from which the top five at the end of the season will be handed places on the Challenge Tour, the final stepping stone to the European Tour.
“I’ve been on the road for that long I’m just a bit tired,” he said ahead of the tournament pro-am, “but, hopefully, I might be able to find a bit of energy from some home support.
“Moor Allerton is a local track to me, I’ve played it plenty of times, and I’ve won a few events round there as an amateur.
“I’m shattered, but I’m looking forward to giving myself a chance this week.”
He went into the last round in the Tree of Life Championship leading by a shot and was never caught thanks to some superb play under pressure which saw him hit no fewer than 16 greens in regulation.
“Of the two I missed, I chipped it to four inches at one and at the other I chipped in,” said Armitage, who shot 67 67 68 to win by two shots.
“One of the keys was I holed 100 per cent of my putts from about 5ft and in.
“I didn’t hole any putts of any real length, though. After nine holes, I said to Duncan (McCarthy, his life coach who was caddying for him) ‘we aren’t holing putts today – so we’re going to stiff this one’. Going up 10 I had 250 yards for my second and I hit a five-wood to 5ft for eagle and holed it.”
Both Armitage’s weight and swing have undergone enormous transformations in the past couple of years – the latter forced upon him by the former.
He shed five stone but a change in body shape led to a loss of feel and awareness of the club’s position during the swing.
A return to working with McCarthy after a year’s hiatus plus plentiful practice and video analysis under the supervision of Anthony Sheehy have helped him not just to a pair of victories on the EuroPro Tour but also a place in his first European Tour event and a degree of success on the Challenge Tour.
“Duncan and I worked together in 2009, we had a great season and then 2013 I had the best season I’ve ever had – we had 14 wins,” said Armitage.
“Then in 2014 I moved to someone else, which didn’t work out. So at the end of 2014 I rang Duncs and said ‘I can’t handle it, I don’t know what’s different’.
“Thankfully he took me back on and within four months I got my first ever [European] Tour start in Madeira and it showed he works for me.”
After losing weight having been “fat all my life”, Armitage struggled to have the sense of feel essential to a top golfer.
“I lost my feel and I lost the understanding of where the club was,” he commented.
Although he has invested an immense amount of hard work himself in changing his diet and swing, he poured praise on his support team which also includes former Tour player Danny Denison and Armitage’s sponsor, Paul Harris, of Stern Fencing. “Danny and the other guys at Nike are fantastic as they sort me out with free gear, and Paul has been brilliant,” he said.
“Paul supports me with whatever I need in terms of travel costs and that was why I was so emotional when I won at Cumberwell Park because I felt I was repaying his faith in me.
“I hadn’t won since 2013 and obviously with losing all the weight it was quite emotional because I’ve been on a long journey of changing my weight, losing five stone, and changing my golf swing.”
Armitage describes Sheehy as “the most amazing guy I’ve ever met”.
Having lost a huge investment he put in to developing and producing a swing aid Step2Swing, which failed despite endorsement from six-times major champion Nick Faldo, Sheehy had little to do with golf until Armitage persuaded him to take a look at his swing.
“I’ve never known anyone work and dedicate themselves to something as much as Anthony,” said the EuroPro champion.
“We used to get up and meet at 5am in Huddersfield at McDonald’s and we’d spend half an hour going through videos before going to a football field for me to hit shots.
“Then he’d go to work from 8am to 5pm, go home from work, see his wife and kids – and then sit up until midnight studying videos to see how I could get better.
“I owe a lot to him, to Duncan, to Danny and to Paul. And to my dad, Philip, who basically lives for me and my golf.
“He wants to watch the highlights on Sky next week [of Armitage’s victory in Newcastle] so I will probably sit and watch it with him.”