The Irish Examiner on Andrew Fitzgerald and his golf coach, John Dooley PGA

Working on Andrew's swing - summer 2012

Emigration is a topic so often tinged with sadness and regret but from sunny San Diego, California, comes news of an Irishman turning adversity into the hope of fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Andrew Fitzgerald, 35, took voluntary redundancy from Heineken in Cork, turned up trumps in the US green card lottery and last October moved with his wife, Jane, to California and found a job with a local drinks distributor.

As all this was going on, the four-time All Ireland medal winner with Monkstown got his handicap down from 4 to 2 in order to play PGA Tour Pre-Qualifiers that take place every week ahead of each tournament.

Fitzgerald, whose grand-uncle was Rosses Point’s six-time Walker Cupper Cecil Ewing, the first amateur to win 50 international caps, wasted no time pursuing his passion Stateside, playing the Open qualifier within a month of his arrival, finishing 64th.

The new year has seen the Corkman, now an overseas member of Ring of Kerry, move to a +0.2 handicap and finish 39th in January at the Farmers Insurance Open qualifier and 41st in the Northern Trust Open qualifier last month.

So encouraged has been by those performances, that Fitzgerald has decided to enter the Canadian Tour School being held in California from April 7-12. He took the brave decision to quit his job in order to get himself ready for the PGA Tour-affiliated Q-school.

"I made the tough decision of leaving my job so I could give myself the best chance to prepare," Fitzgerald said from San Diego. "Sometimes, a leap of faith is needed to succeed! Never die wondering is my motto!!"

Fitzgerald certainly won’t and his bravado has been rewarded by being placed on a Titleist graduateship programme offering equipment at discounted rate as well as further assistance from Golf Pride Grips.

His competitive streak is clear and during his 26 years as a Monkstown member, Fitzgerald, then coached by club pro Batt Murphy, won the 1995 Cork U18 Championship and two Junior Scratch Cups, as well as being a member of his club’s victorious Jimmy Bruen team in 1995. There have been silvers in the Junior Cup in 1997 and 2000 as well as a bronze in the 2007 Mixed Foursomes but now Fitzgerald faces an altogether different challenge.

When he tees it up at Morongo GC in Beaumont, California, next month for Canadian Q-school, there will be another 299 hopefuls vying for the 40 tour cards on offer.

No wonder he’s going all out to try and make his grab for glory a successful one, even if it is a largely self-sufficient bid at his newly adopted San Diego municipal, Balboa Park and local driving range Mission Bay.

"I’m working on all aspects of my game but in particular my wedge play and my chipping and putting," he said. "I am not playing any other events leading up to the Canadian tour school, but I am playing during the week locally and practising for the remainder of the week. I am in the gym four times a week and I’m a big fan of Doctor Bob Rotella’s books."

Sometimes, though, Fitzgerald relies on knowledge from an even more trusted source, his Glanmire, Co. Cork-based coach, John Dooley.

"I have only ever had two golf coaches in my life so when I got out here and met some of the local ones, I was a bit sceptical, as it takes time to build up a relationship and to really trust your coach," he said. "So I keep in touch with John Dooley via Skype.

"I spent pretty much the whole summer of 2012 with John at his facility in Glanmire. As John has been a long-time friend it is easy for us to work through things and he can usually pick out what I need to work on.

"I always prioritise my pre-shot routine. To me, its like a comfort zone. If I can execute it on every shot and commit to it, I play my best.

"I feel good about my game, I have become stronger and fitter in the past six months. Having played three PGA Qualifiers, I know I can compete. I’m excited about the tour qualifying and quietly confident about succeeding."

Irish golf fans may well have to start keeping an eye on Canadian Tour results. Best of luck Andrew.

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Tuesday, March 12, 2013


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