How Nuneaton star Andy Sullivan is quickly positioning himself as the ‘next big thing’ of English golf
Whilst the likes of Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Luke Donald continue to perform at the highest level week in, week out, there has been some debate over the last few years as to which golfer or golfers might replace them as England’s ‘next big thing’.
With his stunning performances so far this season, clocking up two European Tour wins in as many months, former England international Andy Sullivan may well have answered that question.
Still only 28, Sullivan, from Nuneaton, turned professional in 2011 after a successful amateur career. Since then, he has grafted his way up the ladder via two successful trips to European Tour Q-School, in 2011 and 2012.
In 2013, he came 98th on the Race To Dubai, successfully retaining his card. In 2014, he improved on his previous year’s showing, finishing 33rd on the money list. He also famously secured himself a trip to space after having a hole-in-one during the KLM Open before establishing himself as one of the game’s brightest stars just months later when he won, first, the South African Open and, then, the Joburg Open.
Now comfortably ensconced within the top 100 on the world rankings, many are predicting big things for the amiable Sullivan. Indeed, whilst the likes of Tom Lewis and Jack Senior - Walker Cup teammates of Sullivan in 2011 - turned professional with more of a fanfare, it is he who is making a bigger splash. And he knows it, too.
“I am on the crest of a wave at the moment and I don’t want it to end,” he said after winning in Joburg. “I just want it to keep going.
“Coming down the stretch, me and my caddie were loving life again and enjoying it. It seems to be a theme, enjoying my golf and getting the right results at the moment.”
That is perhaps one of the most endearing things about Sullivan: he looks as though he absolutely loves what he does for a living.
In a professional game often lamented for its lack of genuine characters in the mould of, say, Lee Trevino, Sullivan is a breath of fresh air. He proves that you can play with real verve and a wide smile simultaneously.
Nigel Randle is part of the professional team at Nuneaton GC and he told English Club Golfer that the club is enormously proud of Sullivan’s achievements - so much so that it is even planning on renaming its 19th hole after arguably its most famous member.
“It’s going to be known as ‘Sully’s Bar’ from now on,” said Randle. “I actually went up there when he was coming down the stretch in the final round of the Joburg Open and the place was absolutely packed with people watching and cheering him on. I think that shows just how popular a guy he is around here and that’s a reflection of his own personality.
“Any time he comes back, he’ll gladly go out and play with whoever is around. He’s so grounded and doesn’t have any airs or graces. The way he comes across on television - always smiling, always enjoying himself - is exactly the way he is. He’s just a great, down-to-earth lad who happens to be an exceptional golfer.”
Randle added that Sullivan’s rapid rise through the professional ranks has come as absolutely no surprise to those who know him best.
“To give you an example,” he said, “we had a Stableford competition just around Christmas, which Andy played in. We gave him a handicap of plus-six and he still managed to score 41 points. His nearest challenger was off nine and scored 36 points. That gives you an idea of just how talented he is. He’ll regularly go out and shoot 60 around our place.
“So, his ability has never been in any doubt and, now, it’s just a question of how far he wants to go. The sky’s the limit.”
Indeed it is. Rose, Poulter and Co., therefore, had better watch their backs.