The most surprising thing about Bourne golfing talent Ollie Mitchell (18) isn’t his bulging collection of trophies and medals.
Nor is it the fact that Mitchell’s handicap plummeted by 17 shots within a matter of months after joining Spalding Golf Club as an 11-year-old.
The real surprise is that in a sport full of young champions, Rory McIlroy, Ricky Fowler, Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott, it’s a seasoned veteran who is Mitchell’s golfing idol.
“I like Miguel Angel-Jimenez,” Mitchell said.
“I love his character which is different and not like Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy.
“He turned 50 this year but he’s still competing at the highest level.”
While Mitchell hasn’t emulated the Spanish cigar-smoking golfing matador just yet in being part of a successful European Ryder Cup team, the Bourne bricklayer’s list of successes is an impressive one.
Most recently, he captured Spalding Golf Club’s Stewards Cup with playing partner Mark Dodds and was part of the team that became Lincolnshire Foursomes champions last year.
Mitchell said: “In sport, you have to set your goals as high as possible and I do want to turn professional, whether its competing on the European Tour or being a club professional.
“But I need to improve everything in my game to move forward because you can go on the Tour and find that certain areas of your game can let you down.”
Mitchell’s appetite for golf first emerged while following his dad Mark, player-manager of Bourne Town FC when the club last lifted the UCL League in 1991, around Spalding Golf Club in Surfleet.
At the age of eight, the youngster took up a putter and a switch of allegiance from the football pitch to the golf course was complete.
Mark said: “Children tend to follow what their parents do but I was involved in non-league football with Bourne Town and had never played golf.
“Ollie played football but I didn’t think a career in it was going to take off for him so he switched sports at the age of 11, although he didn’t give up football completely.
“In his first season at Spalding Golf Club, Ollie was the youngest winner of a men’s competition in the club’s history and I realised then that my son was at the right age to progress.”
Mitchell’s golfing talents soon presented a dilemma for him as a student at Bourne Academy where none of his classmates played the game.
“I tackled school and golf very well so that when I was on holiday, I was down at the golf club from 6.30am until 4pm every day,” Mitchell said.
“There was never a day when I thought about packing in golf, but I was playing golf with adults from an early age because there was no one of my age I could play with.
“At school, I was the only one who played golf and it was weird not being able to talk to anyone about golf because they didn’t know what to say.”
Mitchell has gone on to play golf for Lincolnshire at every level from Under-13s to the first team, winning the county foursomes and South Lincolnshire Junior League championships in 2013.
Mark said: “I coached Ollie for a long time and saw flaws in his swing that suggested we should get him another coach.
“Martin Perkins of Peterborough Indoor Golf Academy coached Ollie up until a couple of months ago and they got on very well.
“Every single aspect of Ollie’s game was scrutinised and a lot of what Martin taught him has helped my son to progress, along with what I’ve taught him and the knowledge Ollie himself has got out of the game.”
After leaving Bourne Academy, Mitchell studied sport at a college in Stamford and is currently training to be a bricklayer to help finance his golfing ambitions.
Mitchell said: “Originally, I wanted a part-time job to help pay for my golf events but I’m now at the crossroads between work and golf.
“The sport helps to take my mind off having a bad day and to progress so I can play at national events.
“There are so many people at Spalding Golf Club surrounding me to help and golf is something I want to do, knowing that I have a natural ability for it.”
Mark effectively manages his son’s commitments, encouraging him to play through his final year as a junior before setting his sights on the senior ranks full-time.
“At one point, Ollie’s former coach was going to invite him to take up the coaching side of golf as his number two and if Martin had gotten the clientele, Ollie would have done it,” Mark said.
“If an opening comes up as an assistant professional, Ollie would seriously think about it.
“But I’m quite happy for him to earn some money and see how things go because there’s a lot of talented golfers bubbling under the surface in this country who don’t get the chance to go to the highest level.”
Hard-luck stories of professional golfers losing their Tour card are legendary, as are the efforts to win it back.
Mark said: “The biggest factor in sports, including golf, is the mind because if you don’t believe you can beat the guy in front of you, you’re wasting your time.
“I’ve told Ollie ‘there’s no such word as can’t’ and he’s got to believe he can do it.
“Ollie will enjoy golf for the rest of his life, whatever happens, and there’s no pressure on him at all.
“But if it turns out that he has the will and the strength to be a professional golfer, I’ll be chuffed.”