Ian Poulter declared Sam Horsfield “the best young player I’ve ever seen” when he played with him as a 14-year-old. Seven years later, the pair have remained close and Horsfield is embarking on his first full season as a professional on the European Tour. The 21-year-old Mancunian moved to Florida when he was five, shot a 59 when he was 13 and at 15 his home course had to build special tees for him to protect itself from him. He excelled at the University of Florida, with three wins in his first year in 2015. But despite his US upbringing, he still sees himself as English. “I’d represent Europe in the Ryder Cup, for sure,” he says with an American twang.
He became the youngest British male to play in an American major at the 2015 US Open – four months short of his 19th birthday – and qualified again the following year. “Playing in a major is the toughest test in golf. It was a great learning experience that definitely helped me get a few wins in college and get where I am today.”
His ability to raise his game in pressure situations has also helped him reach the European Tour so quickly. He won the Final Stage of Q School by eight shots at the end
of last year, but he might not have even reached that stage if it weren’t for one massive moment.
“The second shot I hit into 18 at Second Stage is one of the best shots of my life. I wasn’t playing very well, we had a terrible number and it was a hard wind, but I knew I needed to make birdie and I hit it to three feet. That birdie got me into a play-off that got me through to Final Stage. Then to win by eight was a huge confidence boost.”
The big hitter carried that run onto tour with a runner-up at the Tshwane Open, a 4th at the World Super 6 Perth, then a T14 in the star-studded Arnold Palmer Invitational. “I’d like to win this year and I think it’s very possible. Every kid dreams of waking up with a Green Jacket and playing Ryder Cups so hopefully I can make those dreams a reality at some point. I believe I can, but I still have to go out there and prove it to the world.”