English Amateur champion Jack Cope had a lot to savour as he sat on the Swilcan Bridge cradling the prize after his recent win in the St Andrews Links Trophy.
The victory elevated him into that elite group of golfers who have won significant tournaments at the Home of Golf. It also extended an incredible comeback from a serious injury that threatened his golf career.
In April 2019, Cope – from The Players Club near Bristol – was widely regarded as one of England Golf’s most promising young players when he fell awkwardly and broke his right arm. The youngster, who two years earlier had become the youngest ever winner of the Gloucester Men’s County Championship at age 17, feared the worst.
“I remember it vividly,” he told the England Golf Podcast recently. “I fell over and my arm snapped when I tried to break my fall. As soon as I saw it, through the pain, I knew it was bad.
“I guess I’m lucky to be where I am right now. It’s miraculous, really.”
The recovery process started when surgeons performed a successful operation to insert two pins into his arm but, even then, they said the best-case scenario was that it would take six to 12 months for him to make a full recovery. Cope decided otherwise.
“Until the accident, I’d taken it all for granted – my talent, the opportunities I was getting – but when it happened, it was like a lightbulb moment for me,” he admitted. “I decided to change my attitude, my lifestyle and I started working harder than I’d ever done before. Maybe too hard at times, but I just sort of switched into tunnel vision in terms of what I wanted to do.
“I became really focussed, really diligent and really dedicated.”
One other change was to sign up with performance coach Russell Covey. He credits their relationship as another major part of the recovery process.
“Russell has had a massive impact on me, on and off the golf course, since we started with each other in September 2019,” he said. “He changed how I did my practice, how I analysed my game, basically getting me to understand that I’m a lot better than I give myself credit for.”
“I played the West of England the weekend before this (his England Amateur victory) and was asked about my form. I said a big win was close the way I was playing and I was right. This is a big leap in the right direction.”
Cope was back on the golf course 11 weeks after the accident. A mere 15 months later he was crowned as English Amateur champion after beating fellow England Golf elite-squad member Callan Barrow in a low-scoring final over the Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa.
Cope was 7-under par at lunch and a further two under when he beat his friend and rival 4 and 3 to claim a title won in the past by Sir Nick Faldo, Tommy Fleetwood, Danny Willett and Paul Casey.
“I played the West of England the weekend before this (his England Amateur victory) and was asked about my form,” he said after lifting the trophy. “I said a big win was close the way I was playing and I was right. This is a big leap in the right direction.”
Cope worked hard on his short game last winter. He emerged from the COVID-induced break to finish in a share of 13th place behind Barrow at the Scottish Men’s Open at Southerness Golf Club. Rounds of 69, 67, 69 and 71 left him on level par, 15 shots behind Barrow, but suggested another big performance was just round the corner. So it proved the following weekend at St Andrews.
He was nestled just behind the leaders after opening rounds of 73, 70 and 70 but a bogey free 67 on the final afternoon on the Old Course catapulted Cope into a tie on 8-under par alongside compatriot Robin “Tiger” Williams and 2019 Scottish champion George Burns. Cope eventually prevailed on the fourth extra hole when he drove the green on the 18th for the fifth time that week and holed out for a winning birdie.
“I’ve played four play-offs in my life and lost every one before,” he admitted. “It had to be fifth-time lucky, I suppose.
“This morning I knew I was capable of shooting two good scores. After the English last year, I feel I know how to win. I wasn’t going to be overawed by the situation.
“I guess this was a nice time to really peak,” he added. “I love the Home of Golf. I particularly like the Old Course, mainly because I normally score alright round here which helps. Just walking over that bridge, taking photos, thinking about all the players who have won here and played here. This is very special.”