Southport golfer Lee Slattery welcomes new arrivals on European Tour from his home town
Nov 3 2011 by Richard Williamson, Southport Visiter
IF there is one thing keeping European Tour winner Lee Slattery on his toes, then it is the next generation of young players emerging to challenge for the top titles.
Especially when two of them are from his home town of Southport.
Both Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Baldwin have made the step up from the Challenge Tour for 2012 and Bankia Madrid Masters champion Slattery knows he must keep working hard to keep them and their peers at bay.
This year saw both Fleetwood and Baldwin claim their maiden Challenge Tour wins, which left Slattery joking: “I was the number three player in Southport so I had to do something about that!”
But he has no intention of underestimating the size of the challenge from the new kids on the tee.
It took former England international and Walker Cup player Tom Lewis just three events as a professional to follow Slattery into the winner’s enclosure in Portugal while the 33-year-old was in his 183rd appearance when he enjoyed his breakthrough victory.
However Slattery is refusing to look over his shoulder, preferring instead to concentrate on building on his maiden success.
“My progress has been steady,” he says. “From winning on the EuroPro Tour, through the Challenge Tour and now being a winner on the main Tour. I have been learning as I go.
“I don’t see 33 as being a bad age to win my first event. Perhaps if I had been in my late 40s I might have wondered whether it was going to be my only win, but I still have the chance to achieve something in the game. I am a similar age to Luke Donald, who is in the best form of his life, so feel I am just getting started.
“There are a lot of good young players coming through, but the fact that I know about life on Tour and have played many of the courses before will hopefully give me an advantage. However they have one big thing going for them – they play without fear. They do not see trouble anywhere – just smash it and find it.”
Slattery is a fellow clubmate of Fleetwood at Formby Hall and expects him to make an immediate impact.
“If I was a betting man I would be lumping some money on him to do something special,” he said. “Tommy was one of the top amateurs in the world when he turned professional and has already turned in a fantastic performance to win the EuroPro Tour event at Formby Hall and the Kazhikstan Open on the Challenge Tour.
“So a lot will be expected of him when he steps up to the main Tour, but I think he has the game to deliver.
“Matthew has taken a little bit longer to get to the European Tour, but will be hoping to use that experience to his advantage.
“The courses are set up much tougher, with narrow fairways and tough pin positions, to offset the advantages that the modern clubs give players in terms of distance off the tee and iron control.”
And if their paths cross on the practice range at Formby Hall, what advice would Lee offer young Tommy on how to approach his rookie year on Tour?
“I would tell him not to change anything!,” he says. “Keep on doing the same things that have served him so well so far. He has a raw talent, but is one of the best iron players I have seen.
“It will be great to see the three Southport lads out on Tour next year.”