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SAN DIEGO — Major championships like this week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines always center around star power.
But they, too, are about guys like 33-year-old European Tour grinder Marcus Armitage, who’s playing in his first tournament in America and is one of the most embraceable players in the game when you consider his backstory, colorful personality and perseverance.
Armitage has lived some kind of life in his 33 years, losing his mother to cancer when he was 13, dropping out of school and dedicating his life to golf, turning pro, falling so deep into debt he nearly lost everything and — oh yes — recently setting the Guinness World Record for the “farthest golf shot caught in a moving car.’’
Even the most hard-core golf fan likely never even heard of Armitage until he won the Porsche European Open earlier this month near Hamburg, Germany, and was so overcome with emotion in his post-tournament TV interview, he sobbed as he spoke of his mother dying when he was 13 and thoughts of her flooding his mind after he had won.
It was Armitage’s first European Tour victory and it qualified him into the U.S. Open this week and the British Open next month.
“I’ve always been an emotional guy,’’ Armitage told The Post on Monday after playing a practice round. “I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m as honest as I can be.’’
Remarkably, Armitage said he came moments from withdrawing from the Hamburg tournament when a frightening situation occurred with his father back home in England. (He respectfully declined to elaborate).
“I had a lot of family issues with my dad before the week in Hamburg,’’ he said. “It was a serious, serious issue. I was so close to flying home. I had to go through that emotion. And, I didn’t like the golf course. I lost seven balls in the practice round and I thought, ‘What am I doing? I’m going to miss the cut.’ ’’
Armitage, who grew up in Manchester, England, said he was a 10-handicap who’d just taken up the game when his mother died. He said playing professional golf “wasn’t even a dream back then.’’
But, after she died he left school at age 13 “because I couldn’t focus in the classroom,’’ he said.
“The only place I could focus was on the golf course, hitting shots and trying to get better,’’ he went on. “It took my mind off of what happened with my mum. Golf just became like my answer. I mean, I know there are no answers in life, but it was my answer at the time. Everything was golf.’’
Armitage had a breakthrough in 2016 when he won a tournament on the Challenge Tour, which is the European Tour’s second-tier tour. That win got him onto the European Tour, where he would struggle so badly that he fell 100,000 pounds in credit card debt paying for travel expenses.
After a miserable 2019 season, he went to European Tour qualifying school and earned his tour card for 2020. Fellow European Tour player Robert Rock paid Armitage’s expenses for a number of tournaments at the start of 2020, some 5,000 pounds worth, to help him continue.
Armitage’s primary sponsor is someone he knows from his club in England who owns Giant Tile.
No one has supported Armitage more than his fiancée, Luci Goodyear, “like the tire company,’’ he said, spelling out her last name.
Armitage’s Guinness World Record came about when the European Tour asked him if he wanted to give it a go with professional race car driver Paul O’Neill, who Armitage said is the brother of one of the Spice Girls.
“Hundred percent,’’ was Armitage’s response.
It took about 50 takes with O’Neill speeding down an airport runway and Armitage ripping his driver off a mat. On one of the early tries, Armitage’s tee shot landed in the speeding car and he celebrated by ripping his shirt off, unwittingly showing off dad bod while running down the track in mad celebration only to be told the shot was a few yards short of the record.
They finally broke the record with a 303-yard tee shot safely landing in the passenger seat of the convertible, which was traveling 71 miles per hour.
The video went viral and Armitage’s sponsor Giant Tile was so delighted with the exposure it extended its contract with Armitage for two more years. A little more than a month later, he won that tournament he nearly never played in Germany.
“I’m just a kid that loves golf and has a little bit of personality,’’ Armitage said. “It’s just amazing how it’s all snowballed from there.’’
Amazing, indeed. One of the best stories of this star-studded U.S. Open week authored by a guy almost nobody knows.
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