Amateur champ Bradley wants to make most of majors.
FULFILLING the dream of any young golfer, teenage Scot Bradley Neil savoured every moment of his memorable experience at The Open Championship at Hoylake.
However, having missed the cut and the chance to claim the Silver Medal for leading amateur, the SGU Men’s Squad player is determined to learn from his big occasion as he seeks to make further strides in the game.
The 18-year-old from Blairgowrie earned his chance among the world’s best after winning The Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush in June, the first Scot to do so in 10 years. Neil can also look forward to a traditional invite to the hallowed turf of Augusta for The Masters in April and a place at next year’s US Open. Staying in the amateur ranks to try and secure a place in next September’s Walker Cup team then looks a possibility.
Neil – who will play for Europe’s Junior Ryder Cup team over his home course in September – shot rounds of 79 and 76 at Hoylake, finding it difficult to recover after a poor start in the opening round. Still, he closed with two birdies and could reflect on a major debut that saw him practice and play with leading names, picking up valuable tips as the week progressed.
Indeed on the Monday, having set up a practice game with Irish pro Shane Lowry and amateur colleague Paul Dunne, Neil and his playing partners found themselves approached on the first tee by world No 1 Adam Scott, asking if he could join them for a round. The response was a positive one!
Neil also played in practice with 2013 US Open winner Justin Rose and leading Scots Stephen Gallacher and Paul Lawrie, as well as enjoying the company of former Amateur champions Matteo Manassero and Mikko Illonen for his two competitive rounds.
“I’m going to take a lot of positives out of the week,” said Neil. “I was disappointed to miss the cut but I’m proud of the fact I battled to the end and finished with two birdies. The problem was that I got off to a bad start on the opening day and never managed to recover.
“But I learned a lot from the experience and that is something that I will be able to use next year at Augusta and the US Open and all the other big events I may play in the future.
“Standing on the first tee on Thursday was a spine-tingling moment and something I will never forget. I think I will always be a bit nervous in situations like that but the next time I experience that sort of thing it should be easier to handle. It will be the same at Augusta. It’s going to be incredible. ”
“It was a fantastic Open experience,” added Neil, also runner-up in the St Andrews Links Trophy and third in the Lytham Trophy this year. “I played with a lot of top players like Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher and it’s been great to see at close hand just how these guys play and go about their business.”
It’s been a whirlwind time for Neil, but while he can look forward, he knows what has come before has been pivotal to his development. After all, his has been a story of steady progression since he came into the Scottish Golf Academy, the development programme for Scotland’s talented young golfers, aged 12 in 2008. He won the Scottish Under-14s in successive seasons, also adding the English Under-14s in 2010, when initially coached by Spencer Henderson, the former national junior coach.
A first boys’ cap came in 2011, as well securing the end of season Scottish Junior Champion of Champions crown. In 2012, he represented GB&I for the first time, before winning the Scottish Boys’ title the following season. A late call-up to the men’s European team in 2013, he helped Scotland defy the odds to finish runners-up, won the Jacques Leglise Trophy with GB&I and went on to star in the Alfred Dunhill Links with pro-am partner Peter Uihlein. 2014 has been his best yet – seven top-10’s at men’s level before Portrush, and then Amateur glory. “You can see the progression I’ve made, I’ve moved through the stages,” said Neil. “I want to keep ticking off boxes at amateur level.”
Photo: Kenny Smith Photography