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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 May 2007, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Fisher angling for next big break
Ross Fisher
Fisher really will be Wentworth's king if he lands the PGA Championship

By Matt Slater
Golf editor

At first glance, everything about The Wentworth Club, venue for this week's BMW PGA Championship, oozes exclusivity and wealth.

The millionaire members, the 15,000 joining fee (and 5,500 annual subs), the richness of its history - Wentworth, as Vince Vaughn's Swingers character Trent Walker would put it, is so money.

But somewhere, deep inside that castellated clubhouse, in amongst the memorabilia and oil paintings, surrounded by oak panelling and vintage leather chairs, beats a more charitable and inclusive heart.

I've got a good chance of contending this year - I've got lots of good recent memories to build on

Ross Fisher
The Wentworth scholarship foundation was set up in 1991 and for the last 16 years it has been quietly dishing out invites to the club's famous facilities and unrivalled coaching resources on a "no cost basis".

The recipients of these golden tickets have been talented youngsters - boys and girls, golfers and tennis players - from the area who would otherwise have "played Wentworth" only in their wildest dreams.

That dream became a reality for rising European Tour star Ross Fisher when his stepfather, Keith, saw an advert in a local newspaper for scholarships at the club in 1994.

Forms were filled in, fingers were crossed and the then 13-year-old Fisher was invited to Wentworth so the head pro could watch him "hit some balls".

This being Wentworth that head pro was Bernard Gallacher, the serving European Ryder Cup captain. There were also another 30 talented youngsters at the trial.

Wentworth Club
A round at Wentworth's West Course costs visitors nearly 300
Not that any of this put off Fisher, who had started playing the game when he was three and was "absolutely golf mad". Gallacher knew a prize catch when he saw one and the Ascot-born youngster was duly handed the keys to the magic kingdom.

"I'd played there once before and heard lots about it. I knew it was great and was obviously really hoping to impress Bernard," Fisher told BBC Sport.

"I was delighted to be chosen, absolutely over the moon. And so were my mum and dad."

The next six years saw Fisher play at Wentworth almost every weekend and school holiday. He was also given coaching and represented the club in competitions. He even used to work on the driving range for pocket money.

It was the most fantastic apprenticeship for a burgeoning talent, and one for which the big-hitting Fisher, now in his second full year on the main circuit, remains grateful.

"I think it's one of the best golf clubs in Europe. So to be a part of it for so long is really special," he said.

"Wentworth is my first and only club. I love it."

And as proud as Fisher is to be a one-club man, the club is as proud of him. In fact, Wentworth seems to be proud of all its past scholars.

Wentworth's managing director Julian Small has been one of the scheme's trustees for many years and was quick to flag up the number of "former pupils" that continue to play, work or coach at the Virginia Waters venue.

Ross Fisher
Fisher's elegant swing has won him many admirers on the tour
He also explained that the scheme was not just about sporting development.

"We have always taken the view that we had a responsibility to help the scholarship members develop as people, not just golfers or tennis players," said Small.

"So we would ask them to represent the club, invite them to dinners with the trustees and involve them in all aspects of what is a very friendly and inclusive club."

Whatever it was they tried it appears to have worked with Fisher. Affable, modest and talented, the 6ft 3in 26-year-old has been attracting rave reviews for his ball-striking abilities and calm temperament.

Having earned his European Tour card through solid performances on the Challenge Tour in 2005 (he then improved his ranking via the Qualifying School tournament), Fisher claimed a share of fourth place in his first event as a full member of the tour.

Two more top-five finishes followed in that rookie season and there have been two more this season, including a very impressive fifth at the Dubai Desert Classic in February.

The quality of the field at the Emirates Club that week was top drawer and the only men to beat Fisher were world number seven Henrik Stenson, world number five and fellow Wentworth member Ernie Els, world number 38 Niclas Fasth and a certain Tiger Woods, who Fisher played with on the final day and very nearly matched.

Tiger Woods and Ross Fisher
Woods was impressed with Fisher's fighting display in Dubai
All but Woods will be teeing it up on Thursday when the European Tour's flagship event starts. And with seven of the world's top 15 playing in the BMW PGA Championship it would seem the 281st-ranked Fisher's chances of success are remote.

But that would be discounting Fisher's improving form, growing confidence and local knowledge, after all, he finished 41st in his first crack at the event last year.

"I'm going to be fresh and really keen," said Fisher, who took a few weeks off before last week's Irish Open to work on his game in Dubai.

"I feel like I've got a good chance of contending this year. And before I went to Dubai I carded a 68 and a 65 on the West Course so I've got lots of good recent memories to build on."

Having been a member of one of Europe's finest golf clubs for half of his life, good memories should not be in short supply for Fisher.

But should he manage to go 68-65 over the coming weekend all those memories will pale into insignificance when compared to the club legend that he will become as Wentworth's first truly home-grown champion.



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