FOR years Andrew Wilson has had his numbers right in the classroom and now the talented international is looking to make a career out of nailing his figures on the course – starting in South Africa next month.

Wilson, from Darlington, has made a name for himself by swinging his clubs over the last 11 years, eventually earning England recognition and he will be proud to wear his country’s rose on his chest once more when he travels away next month.

The 23-year-old will be flying out with compatriot Jack Gaunt, from Staffordshire, to Johannesburg in early February ahead of playing in a four-tournament tour as a result of forming part of the national team squad.

Wilson will tee off at the South African Stroke Play Championship at Pecanwood on February 6. He will head for Glendower – where pros Graeme Storm and Chris Paisley have claimed Tour titles in the last 12 months – looking to make it a North-East hat-trick there at the African Amateur, before finishing with outings at the Cape Province Open at Kingswood and the Salam SA Amateur in Durban.

“We go there for a month and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Wilson. “I’m really looking forward to going to Glendower after what those guys have done in the last year. I spoke to Stormy, asked if he had a course planner. He said for Glendower to practice a lot on my short game and to hit it straight. He said you can’t miss fairways and to keep it on the short grass. He also reckoned it flies further around there.

“I have played with Graeme a few times, seen Chris a few times too, it was great to see them do so well. We play quite similarly, we are not the longest of hitters and our short games are decent. I’m a little disappointed I am going out there and we are not playing Leopard Creek. It’s the first year they have not played there, it would have been great to play in the lands of the safari.”

It is not the first time Wilson and Gaunt have been away this year. They only returned from Buenos Aires last week after competing in the South American Amateur to get things rolling.

“It was a good week,” said Wilson. “A weird place, just outside Buenos Aires, plenty of poverty around. We were stuck in the hotel really, was too hot, 40 degrees on my first day of practice … think it was minus five over here the same day.

“There was a strong field of 75, really good players. I was 23rd for the week. I got flu, which didn’t help. I’m pretty sure it was from the woman coughing in front of me on the flight! I was there nine days, got back on January 18, and I’m only just recovering now.”

Regardless of how that event went, though, Wilson is just pleased to have got the year up and running earlier than he is used to. Having graduated with a masters in finance last summer, this is the first time since taking up the game he has been able to wholly concentrate on that.

“I think it had a bearing on the way I ended last year,” said Wilson, who won the Lee Westwood Trophy and finished runner-up at the North of England Amateur after leaving Northumbria University.

“I had no pressure of essays and exams on me, no pressure on my back and I seemed to play better after that, so I am looking forward to my first year in full-time golf since I started when I was about 12.

“It’s nice to get my season started now because normally it’s early April and May time – it can be difficult to get going sometimes.

“From September 2016 to September 2017 I was dropped from the England squad while I was at university, couldn’t really do anything about it. I was working full-time when I was doing my internship and England Golf didn’t want me doing that.

“I wasn’t having a great year either, but started seeing Graham Walker the England coach, I should have kept seeing him before that but I was a bit naïve. I saw him at the English Amateur, qualified in fifth in matchplay out of 200 plus. Played nicely.

“I got knocked out in the last-16 and that was like the catalyst. Soon after it was the Home Internationals week and, after I didn’t get picked for those, I played and won the Lee Westwood Trophy at the same time at Rotherham. Things went well so I am looking forward to 2018 now.”

The next 12 months should be significant. The Darlington Golf Club member has his targets in mind, not least leaving the amateur game behind in style.

Wilson, who used to be a pupil at the Haughton Academy (now Educational Village), said: “I want to win a big event before I turn pro. I won the North of England Youths in 2013 and finished second in the North of England Amateur at Alwoodley last year. I know I am capable, I just need to focus on dong it.

“I have just handed in my resignation in a clothing shop where I have been working just outside Newcastle. I have spoken to a couple of golf clubs about some work. I will probably turn pro in September, go to European Tour school and go from there.

“But it makes a big difference being around good players in the England squad, with the trips and coaching all experience. Hopefully it all helps me as I look to develop.”