Matthew Southgate didn't think he'd play golf again when he was diagnosed with cancer last July, but the last few months have been some of the best of his life
From despair to delirium: Matthew Southgate’s life-changing year
The now 27-year-old had shown promise up until that point, but his results weren’t wildly encouraging. Since turning professional in 2010, he’d recorded a second-place finish on the Challenge Tour and not much more.
Last July, he was left wondering if he’d stay alive, let alone play professional golf again. In an awful year for the Southgate family, Matthew’s three-year-old niece was also diagnosed with leukaemia.
He underwent surgery and started practising again some six weeks later, despite being advised that it was too soon. He had no other choice – financial constraints meant that if he didn’t make in through 2015 Q-School, he would have to look elsewhere for a career.
“I knew I had to qualify for my card or that was that,” he told the Telegraph.
“It would have been too much to ask my parents to keep me going for another year. I had to say to myself, ‘look, you’re not 17 any more, you’re 27 and this can’t go on forever’.”
It wasn’t as if he had a fast-track ticket to Final Stage, either. He battled through the first two stages and ultimately came out with the sixth card. Talk about clutch.
His joy at gaining a card soon began to give way to anxiety, though. By the end of March, he’d missed six of seven cuts and earned just €4,200. However, his fortunes were about to shift.
He recorded back-to-back top 25s at the Shenzhen International and the Trophee Hassan II, but still didn’t have a place in the field for the Irish Open.
However, he snuck in as first alternate, and secured a fourth-place finish to earn €200,000 and secure his playing privileges for 2016. Understandably, the tears flowed.
Fast forward two months, to the Open Championship. An 11th-place finish at the French Open earned him a spot in the field via the Open Qualifying Series, and he took full advantage.
Just minutes ago, Southgate came home in 33 on Troon’s tough back nine to set the clubhouse target on one-under-par and sit inside the top 12. He’s never made the cut in a Major before.
In November last year, he had no playing status, no money and virtually no hope. Now, he has almost €500,000 in the bank, a card for next year and the opportunity for further riches via the European Tour’s Finals Series.
Stories like this just don’t come around every day. Southgate doesn’t even have a manager, but he now has a shot at fulfilling his potential.