Rose remembers Hampshire roots

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Meon Valley Golf Club member Harry Ellis

Ellis' pride as he finishes Masters in style

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As Justin Rose strolled back into town as a major winner, you could have been forgiven for thinking he was still that unassuming 17-year-old who was catapulted into stardom back in 1998.

Wandering to his position with a shy smile at all the eyes that were trained on his every step at Golf at Goodwood, Rose lived up to his ambassador’s role perfectly at the West Sussex complex.

They would be hard-pressed to find a better role model for the clutch of young talents who are coming through their ranks.

After he conducted a coaching clinic for youngsters, he ran through a demonstration of his own impressive ball-striking and answered questions from the spectators as he did it.

He then happily posed for photographs, shook hands with all and sundry and signed everything that was thrust in front of him, before he gave up more of his time to meet the assembled local media.

What was crystal clear was success hasn’t gone to his head.

He is certainly driven to achieve more of his ambitions in the game but there was no hint he felt he was wasting his time with us lowly hacks who he’ll probably never cross paths with again.

Courteous, friendly and happy to answer anything thrown at him – even the questions that might have attracted a glare or an expression of confusion from other high-profile golfers – Rose’s character has barely changed since he so nearly won the The Open as an amateur at Royal Birkdale in 1998.

But the key difference these days is he is not one of golf’s nearly-men any more.

While he is keen to perform well at this week’s BMW Championship at Wentworth, his priorities are clear.

‘I regard Wentworth as my hometown tournament,’ said Rose.

‘I’ve been going there since I was about eight years old.

‘I would go with a backpack full of sandwiches and walk around, get inspired and it would make me come home and practice more.

‘It’s a lovely event to get home for and play in front of a home crowd.

‘But my target is to go and get another major.

‘It shouldn’t be harder than the first one. It’s been incredibly hard for a lot of guys to win a major championship.

‘There are a lot of great careers that have come and gone without the player getting across the finish line in a major.

‘The longer that career goes without it, the more the pressure builds up. And that’s why I feel very fortunate to have it out of the way.

‘I was on a nice progression from 2010 onwards and working my way up the ranks.

‘Towards the end of 2012, the next step was to win a major championship.

‘Even though I have been a pro for 15 years, I only felt ready to win the majors in the past few years.

‘But I felt like I got that monkey off my back pretty quickly.

‘I was beginning to be touted as one of the best players to never win a major, so it was nice to win one quickly before it became an issue.’

Of course, The Open at Hoylake this summer will be Rose’s main focus but he already has one eye on defending his US Open crown at Pinehurst after his breakthrough victory at Merion.

However, he predicts he will have at least 10 good opportunities to get his hands on the biggest titles, if he maintains form and fitness over the next decade.

‘I just feel with my game the way it is, I will create more opportunities to win majors,’ said Rose.

‘If I play the way I am supposed to play, I will probably have 10 chances to win majors in the next 10 years.

‘Whether that is leading or being within two or three going into the final day – I should have some sniffs at it – at least 10, I would imagine.

‘At Merion, everything just lined up for me and I got the right breaks.

‘It was my week and you need that to be the case.

‘I will play well in many major championships and not quite win and I may lose a major or two where I feel like I should have won.

‘You’ve got to accept that – it’s part of the game.

‘To win the majors, you have got to put your heart on the line and it can be painful.

‘But having had that one, I know I can push for more.

‘I would love to go back-to-back in the US Open. If I was to choose one in the near future, defending that would be an incredible experience.

‘But winning the Open Championship – that’s what I dreamt about most as a kid.

‘To win the two Opens, that would be a nice, little combo.’

Rose, who started his career at North Hants Golf Club and played in the 1996 Hampshire team that won the English County Finals for the only time in their history, fondly recalled his amateur days on the county circuit.

He said: ‘I was in the county set-up from about the age of eight.

‘I was playing in the Junior Open and in the county coaching squad, then in the team. I was in that system from a very early age and it was a big part of my development.

‘At that level, you learn how to win and that’s key.

‘I had summers where I won 15 tournaments – they might not all be big tournaments but you get that winning feeling. That’s important.

‘But golf serves a purpose for everyone. Participation is incredibly important for a lot of kids.

‘It’s a safe place to be and a great place for families to be together or for kids to be dropped off.

‘Not everybody can be a winner but the ethics of the game and the way you conduct yourself – all that stood me in great stead.

‘I would put my name down for the monthly medal.

‘I would play with 40-year-old men that I didn’t know.

‘I had to converse with them and handle myself in that situation.

‘I left school at 16 to eventually turn professional so that, in a sense, was my education.’