If you were to listen to Sam Horsfield speak, Manchester would be your last guess as to where he was born.
Sam and his family left Styal to live in Florida when he was five years old, and now 18 years later he is one of England’s brightest prospects on golf’s European Tour.
His journey to the top of the golfing world is still a work in progress. If he can transpose the successes of his amateur career into his efforts on tour, we could be looking at another Manchester-born sports star.
Amidst the chaos of the Coronavirus pandemic, Sam took time to chat to MM from his home in Florida about his childhood and his rise through the golfing ranks, starting on his friendship with another family who have taken part of the sporting world by storm.
He said: “We used to live right by Manchester airport in the Styal area. Our neighbours used to be Tyson Fury’s cousin Hughie. Me and Hughie used to be really good friends.
“We used to do Halloween and stuff together. My mum told me some stories about how we’d go down to houses and scare people, I remember hanging out and being in the house he lived in.
“When I was three or four years old, it was either my birthday or Christmas and I just got a new scooter, and I actually fell over the handlebars and knocked out a few of my teeth.
“My grandparents still live in the Manchester area now so I like going back when I have a few weeks off and visit them. Once, they took me and my girlfriend back to the house that I used to live in.
“I went to Styal Primary school so we went there too. Being able to play over that side of the world and go back and reconnect with my childhood is pretty cool.”
Sam’s family made the decision to temporarily relocate to their holiday home in Florida for a year, after the heater had broken in their house in Styal. This would prove to be an important stage in Sam’s life, as the move became permanent.
At the age of 10, Sam picked up a club for the first time and realised that this was the path he’d go down, after playing at a local course near to their hometown of Davenport.
Although Sam struggled at first when learning the game, it soon became a priority.
“We had a vacation house over here (in Florida) and it’s right on the golf course, and one day we went to Universal Studios and one of the theme parks,” he said.
“We got back at about 2pm and we said ‘Why don’t we go and play golf?’ And so the first time I played golf, I played from the ladies tees and I shot 167. I still have the scorecard!
“I never really enjoyed school and the book side of things, especially as golf got more serious. I grinded every day and wanted to be the best and put all my efforts in becoming the best player I can.”
When Sam was 14, he met European Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter and his long term caddie Terry Mundy. They played together on the day they met at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, a match Sam won over nine holes.
Horsfield became a part of Poulter’s team, being mentored by the Postman himself and his long term caddie Terry Mundy and manager Paul Dunkley.
Poulter described Sam as ‘the finest young golfer’ he had seen. This was a level of affection not usually directed from an Arsenal fan to a Manchester United supporter.
He told MM: “I talk to Ian regularly, we see each other at tournaments and when we are practising. He’s been a very successful golfer and I have a very good team around me.
“I’m part of that team, Terry’s been there for pretty much every step of Ian’s career and Paul most certainly has. I was in a bit of a situation last year where I wasn’t feeling great, I spoke to Paul for about two hours on the phone.
“I’m grateful that I can call either one of those guys at any moment of the day and they’d be down to sit down and talk to me about how I’m feeling.”
In the days and years that would follow his first meeting with Poulter, Sam excelled. In 2011, he won the Florida State Boys’ Junior Championship by five strokes.
Two years later, he won his second Florida State Golf Association title in the Florida State Amateur Championship, the same year he also won the Orlando City Amateur.
Despite not picking up a golf club until he was 10, Horsfield was showing a clear innate ability to shoot low scores and pick up trophies.
In 2015, Horsfield qualified for the US Open at Chambers Bay in Washington. Jordan Spieth emerged victorious following a 72nd hole collapse by Dustin Johnson, but the week was dominated with criticism for the condition of the golf course.
Recollecting that week in Washington, Sam said: “I remember it being undulating and pretty crazy. When you think of a US Open, you think of narrow fairways, long rough and speedy greens.
“The US Open that I played at Oakmont in 2016 was what I imagined a US Open being like, but Chambers Bay was like a links course to be honest, it wasn’t like anything that I have played before. It was pretty different.
“I don’t have a leg to stand on to be bashing the USGA, considering there’s guys out here who have played in 20 or 25 US Opens. It wasn’t something I was expecting. I will just leave it at that.”
‘BEST TWO YEARS OF MY LIFE’
Horsfield missed the cut, as he did the following year when Johnson redeemed himself at Oakmont in Pennsylvania, lifting his first major title.
But this disappointment paled into insignificance. In 2016 Sam was awarded the Phil Mickelson Outstanding Freshman Award in a university season where he won three times, including the Southern Highlands Collegiate.
Horsfield became the first Florida University representative to win the award since fellow tour member Camilo Villegas in 2001.
With fond memories of university, he told MM: “It was the best two years of my life to be completely honest with you. I would recommend it to everybody that they go play college golf, because you’re living away from home and you have got to learn to do stuff.
“I was 17 or 18 years old and I had never been exposed to that sort of stuff, so it was really good to my game and being on a team with 10 or 12 really good golfers.
“When you go to college you are always exposed to the highest level of college/amateur golf and it’s a great path for a year or two or however long you want to do.”
In 2016, Horsfield also lost in the final of the Western Amateur Championship, potentially not a bad omen with the likes of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay also falling at this hurdle in previous years.
Sam turned professional in 2017 and is currently ranked inside the top 250 golfers in the world. On paper, this may not appear impressive, but there is much more to come from the 23-year-old.
2018 was a year of near misses but also one of fond memories for Horsfield. Despite coming second at the Tshwane Open, he came an impressive tied 14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, a course he knew well from his time in Florida.
He was also paired with Rory McIlroy for the third round at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. McIlroy has more than fulfilled his potential as a professional, and Horsfield believes his time will come.
“Everybody who plays this game wants to compete at the highest level, you know majors, the World Golf Championships and Ryder Cups. I most certainly want to be in the mix of things coming down the stretch on Sunday at a Masters or a US Open.
“So many people dream of walking around Amen corner in contention for a major and hopefully I’ll have a few opportunities to do that. We’ll have to wait and see.
“It’s a crazy game and I think that’s why people fall in love with it because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
For those who play golf, unpredictability is one of the only things guaranteed. But Horsfield’s rise in the golfing world is anything but luck, and there’s little doubt that he’ll be climbing further towards its peak in years to come.