For US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, friends became family

But the real lesson Fitzpatrick lived through this week was less about comfort on the course and more about comforting friends. And family. And friends who become family.

For Fitzpatrick, the pulse of his nervousness, grit and Sunday’s beautiful duel with American Will Zalatoris, whom he ended up defeating by one stroke by finishing the tournament 6-under, was shared with his own family. With his parents, Russ and Sue, and his brother Alex, the trio who held their breath and nerves as they walked through the 18 holes beside him. But it was also shared with the Fultons, with Will and Jennifer from Jamaica Plain, with their four kids too, the six incredibly generous people who opened their home to the Fitzpatricks in 2013 and did it again this week.

Not to mention so many times in between.

“They’re just amazing, amazing people,” Alex said Sunday, still wearing that heady mix of joy and shock all over her dimpled face. “They were very generous in helping us at 13 and everything since. We are incredibly grateful for the things they did for us, lifting us up, treating us so well. They are the definition of extremely nice people and we definitely feel like they are family. One hundred percent family. They may not be lineage, but one hundred percent we call them family. They are amazing.”

As the story goes, it was at the end of the 2013 tournament and Matt had advanced beyond the hotel accommodations his family had planned, and all was booked. The call went to the Country Club members for someone who could take them in, and within moments, Will and Jen both raised their hands. Both working as volunteers at the time, they would rush home at the end of the day and quickly change the sheets in the kids’ rooms, pack their own four into a few rooms together, and open the doors.

Matt entered the guest room. Russ and Sue entered their daughter’s room. Alex walked in, then working as his brother’s caddy, in a bunk.

“We couldn’t have asked for better hosts,” Russ recalled Sunday, walking toward the players’ parking lot, Red Sox cap on his head, Fulton party in his future. “They are amazing people with four amazing kids. It’s just a family that made Matt feel so relaxed.”

Ping pong games back then — “I take my ping pong very seriously and it whipped me over and over again,” Will recalled, not so fondly, but with a laugh — turned into video games to this day. But while other parameters may have changed as well, like Matt now traveling with his own chef, Sean from Sheffield, who spent the week preparing breakfast and dinner daily for 11 occupants of Fulton House, the dynamics of the relationship haven’t changed as much as they’ve gotten more. strong.

And more impactful. Returning to Brookline this year and returning to the Fulton family home, it was like Matt was stepping into a hug, a warm and relaxed atmosphere that has undoubtedly helped him succeed.

“So much,” Russ said. “It definitely had an impact because normally he would be in a hotel or a house with just a few people. It was genuinely like home.”

“We really wanted to recreate what we did at 13 because Matt was incredibly successful at 13 and we wanted to do it this year as well,” said Will, who actually served as general president of the championship, a role that is taken on by a member and does not include financial compensation, but does include a commitment of nearly a decade. With Jennifer overseeing the 3,500-strong volunteer team, there’s little doubt the Fitzpatricks would have understood if having guests were too much.

No way. Not when friends become family.

“My brother said earlier in the week that it felt like a home game, we are just lucky to have familiar faces and just experience it with [the Fultons] it’s phenomenal,” Alex said.

Globo correspondent Jayna Bardahl contributed.

Tara Sullivan is a columnist for the Globe. She can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.

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