Andrew Murray still doesn’t know what it was about the week of the 1989 European Open that saw him win his only European Tour title. Callum Shinkwin probably feels the same. He proved this past weekend that all it takes is one good week to make a career.
Shinkwin, who became a European Tour winner by defeating Finland’s Kalle Samooja in a playoff to win the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Open, has had an up and down time on the European Tour since turning professional in 2013 following an excellent amateur career. Victory over Matthew Fitzpatrick in the 2013 English Amateur Championship earned him a place alongside Fitzpatrick in that year’s Walker Cup. He won once and lost once in two singles appearances as the USA defeated Great Britain & Ireland at the National Golf Links on Long Island.
While Fitzpatrick and fellow teammate Jordan Smith went on to win on tour, Shinkwin seemed to promise much only to falter when it mattered. He put himself in position to win the 2017 Scottish Open but lost in a playoff to Rafa Cabrera Bello. That result helped him to 40th on the Race to Dubai. The following year he lost his card, placing 119th on the Race to Dubai. He went 19 places better last year to keep his European Tour job, but nothing this year really pointed to his maiden European Tour victory. He did finish equal eighth in the ISPS Handa Wales Open, but that came thanks to a closing 67 when he was out of contention.
Still, Shinkwin’s a fighter in more ways than one. He’s not a silver spoon boy like some who make it on to the European Tour. He briefly considered a career in boxing as a means of escaping a working-class upbringing in Watford. His father and his uncles were all boxers, having followed their father into the fight game.
Shinkwin’s cousin, Miles Shinkwin, is a light heavyweight professional boxer. Callum even had a couple of fights as a youngster while thinking about a career in boxing. He won both, but admitted the training was too hard. Golf was far more genteel. Just as well he chose the fairways over the ring. He’s just realised his boyhood dream when he was honing his game at Moor Park Golf Club.
"It’s something I’ve always wanted to do (win on the European Tour), and now I have. It’s been a bit of a shock, but it feels great,” Shinkwin said after picking up a cheque for €162,563 for winning in Cyprus.
"I felt relaxed all day, I felt great to be fair. I’ve had to trust myself more than anything. I had to make a few changes and obviously it’s worked out for the best. Dug deep in 2019 and got my card back, and this year obviously with what has gone on, I’m happy to win.”
When fellow Englishman Murray won in 1989 at Walton Heath he overcame a field that included Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Sam Torrance, Mark James, Vijay Singh, Nick Faldo, Tony Johnstone, Howard Clark, Colin Montgomerie, Ronan Rafferty, Gordon Brand Jnr and a slew of other players who would have been more highly favoured than the man from Manchester. Yet Murray topped them all to make his career. I interviewed him years later and asked him the obvious question: what was it about that week that made the difference. Murray said:
“I have no idea. It was just my week. I never had another week like it and I don't know why.”
Shinkwin perhaps earned his maiden win because of a change of back room personnel.
"I try not to change caddies at all, really, but changed caddies this year to try to help me on the greens more. I’ve done that with Sam (Robertshawe), he’s a great green reader with his own method. I’ve trusted him and he’s basically taught me how to read greens better. This week I think I’ve called on him eight times and I’ve holed seven putts from there and obviously holed a lot more reading myself as well, which is obviously really good."
Whether Shinkwin has another week as good as Cyprus remains to be seen. He certainly has the talent, and the determination. Whatever he does from here on in, though, he’s a European Tour winner.
And it only took one good week.
#JustSaying: “Six years are needed to make a golfer – three years to learn the game, then another three to unlearn all you’ve learned in the first three years. You might be a golfer when you arrive at this stage, but more than likely you’re just starting.” Walter Hagen
Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour