Danny Willett’s former mentor and coach has said he is “pleased as punch” after the golfer became the first Briton to win the Masters in 20 years.
Graham Walker, 57, who began coaching Willett when he was 15 years old and watched him become the number one amateur in the world and win his first victory on tour, said he showed a “thirst for knowledge” and “desire to work” from a young age.
He said Willett, who he trained for about 10 years, had a “good family background” and did not “suffer from pushy parents” but was driven to succeed.
Walker, who runs Walker’s Golf Academy at The Oaks Golf Club, York, described the golfer as a “very steely” and “honest character”.
“We had lots of honest, frank conversations — he always wanted to know your comments, always wanted to know what you thought about his golf game,” he said. “He wasn’t afraid to hear the truth about his golf game and then he’d get on and work hard at it.
“The memory that stands out is his desire to work. His thirst for knowledge and his desire to work. That was a minutely, hourly, daily sort of thing with him.”
Within five years of joining Walker, Willett became the number one amateur in the world, and the pair then “set the ground rules” as he aimed to become the number one professional in the world.
“That was always the dream and the goal, and that’s what we set about trying to achieve,” Walker said.
“He was always going to work to become the best player in the world. Wherever that takes him — whether that takes him to number one, number two, that’s what he’ll work towards. . That’s his desire.”
Walker, who still coaches at the golfing academy, attributed Willett’s success to his supportive family and good upbringing.
“He had a real background — he didn’t suffer from pushy parents. They were real parents who just looked after their kid,” he said.
“He was the one who needed to play well and win.”
He added: “From my point of view, I just tried to mentor him as well to be a good person as well as a good golfer. If you can be as good a person as you are a golfer you can be something really special.
“He got that. He got that you’ve got to try and do both. And he did.”
Willett’s Masters victory created its own measure of fame for his schoolteacher brother, who returned to work yesterday hours after his shot-by-shot commentary on his sibling’s win proved a massive Twitter hit.
Peter Willett, 33, described golf fans’ reaction to his humorous tweets — which included a reference to a row over his childhood pet rat — as “surreal” and crazy.
Live tweeting from his home in Birmingham, the golf star’s older brother began to trend on Twitter in the UK as the Masters neared its end at around midnight on Sunday.
Among Peter’s tweets was one which read: “Speechless. I once punched that kid in the head for hurting my pet rat. Now look.”
He also said: “Green makes you look fat — refuse the jacket.”
Another tweet stated: “If the boy does what he should, I will be able to say I’ve shared a bath with a Masters winner — brilliant.”
Speaking to BBC Radio yesterday shortly before he began teaching at a school in Solihull, Peter said he had cracked open a bottle of champagne when he realised his brother would finish in the top eight.
Recalling the start of his unofficial play-by-play commentary, Peter said: “We were having a quiet drink, seeing him move up the scoreboard, seeing him getting better and better — it was really enjoyable.
“I started sending out a few tweets just to see what kind of reaction I got, because that’s the kind of guy I am.
“Then (US golfer Jordan) Spieth did what he did on the 12th and it just went insane.”
Peter added that he and his wife had decided to open one more bottle of champagne after his brother’s win and had then struggled to sleep.
“My phone started shaking all over the place and me and my wife didn’t know what to do. The phones just vibrated the entire night. I just lay in bed constantly refreshing my phone, looking at how many people were retweeting me.
“It was crazy. It was surreal and the phone has carried on going ever since.”
Meanwhile, Peter’s tweets won praise from Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain, who told his followers: “New Masters champion @Danny_Willett’s brother @P_J_Willett has been tweeting up a storm tonight. Worth reading his timeline.”
Regarding the row over the rat, the brothers’ father Steve told the BBC: “Peter and Danny shared a bedroom. Peter insisted on keeping two pet rats, Danny did not like that very much so did everything in his power to make sure the rats vacated the premises.
“They used to get into fights all the time about the rats.”
10: The size of bet in pounds Willett’s mother placed on her son to win the Masters, with a £1,150 return.
16: The age at which Willett left school, before later winning a golfing scholarship to attend Jacksonville State University in the US.
17: The number of years since the last European Masters winner, Jose Maria Olazabal, victorious in 1999.
20: The number of years since England’s last Masters winner, Nick Faldo beating Greg Norman in a play-off to claim his third and final green jacket.
67: Willett’s winning final-round score, his bogey-free five-under-par return sealing his first major title.
89: The number worn by Willett’s caddie Jonathan Smart for Sunday’s final round, the same as that of Jack Nicklaus’ caddie-son Jackie Junior for the golfing great’s 1986 Augusta triumph.
125/1: The odds on Willett winning the Masters before the start of the tournament, according to bookmakers William Hill. Willett is now 25/1 to win The Open.
1,800,000: Willett’s prize money in US dollars.
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