Year of ups and downs for Norfolk golf professional Ian Ellis
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Ian Ellis has been dubbed the Miguel Angel Jimenez of Norfolk golf – and despite being eight years younger than the veteran Spaniard it's a description he quite likes.
The 43-year-old Great Yarmouth and Caister professional is preparing for his 20th year in the paid ranks and, like Jimenez, is still more than capable of giving the younger generation a good run for their money.
Despite the major highlight of making the cut for the first time in the PGA Championship at Wentworth, Ellis fully accepts that 2015 hasn't been a vintage year, with failure to qualify for next year's event among the disappointments. But he is already looking forward to next season with confidence and, at the age of 43, feels his best days are still ahead of him.
'I still can't believe I am preparing for my 20th year as a professional – where has the time gone?' he said. 'The good thing is that I am still playing well and am still competitive. I hit the ball further than I ever have and I think my technqiue is better as well.
'I have also managed to stay fit – which I need to because I must have played over 160 rounds this year and I feel great, even though I am looking forward to taking my foot off the gas a little now. With no (PGA) play-offs to go for this year, and no PGA Championship in May, I can afford to do that which is probably no bad thing, as I have been playing pretty much non stop for three years now.'
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Looking back on his 2015 campaign, Ellis has plenty of good memories to go with the disappointments.
'Obviously I will never forget making the cut at Wentworth and winning the trophy for top PGA professional,' said Ellis. 'I wouldn't call it a career highlight – but it had been a career long struggle to get through to the weekend and to finally make it was an amazing feeling. It was still a great experience – and walking out in front of thousands of people to collect my trophy is something I'll never forget. I felt so good I would have been happy to make a speech if I'd had to!
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'Tieing for fifth in a Europro Tour event at Chart Hills was also pleasing. I shot the low round of the week there (a 64) and it showed I could compete at a good level against guys who were, generally speaking, a lot younger than me. I also won the Norfolk Order of Merit again – but obviously there were setbacks as well. Having finished in the top three in the Regional Order of Merit in the two previous years it was obviously disappointing to finish sixth this time around. That meant I missed out on a play-offs in Turkey and couldn't compete for a return to Wentworth as one of the 10 top PGA professionals in the country.
'Looking back, I was always playing catch-up after missing the first event to play in another tournament. I knew then that I had to win once or twice to push up into the top three and it just didn't happen. I ended up finishing sixth – which wasn't what I had in mind.'
Ellis is now recharging his batteries ahead of what he hopes will be a season to remember in 2016.
'My ranking Europro Tour ranking will get me into all the tournaments next year so that is a big target. I am going to play at that level and see how it goes while hopefully I will get into a few Challenge Tour events.
'The regional events are also important to me, not least because I want to get back to Wentworth, and I am confident I can do that.'
Ellis will also continue to support tournaments in his home county, where he has being enjoying the company of a former Norwich City footballer who came up with the comparison to Jimenez. When he is not working for Sky Sports Dean Ashton can often be found on a golf course, and is a regular amateur partner of Ellis' in Norfolk PGA pro-am events.
'It was a nice compliment from Dean – because I pride myself on being able to compete with much younger players at whatever level I am playing at,' said the Norfolk professional, who has been helped along the way by sponsors Seajacks, Electrical Testing, Norfolk Floors and Bateman Construction.
'To be fair Dean is a good player himself and I have really enjoyed his company out on the golf course.'