Bradley Neil makes his professional debut in this week’s SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts after enjoying his adventure at the US Open Championship but the promising young Scot thinks his previous experience in big tournaments will help keep any nerves at bay.
The 19 year old won last year’s Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush to earn a place at Chambers Bay, having also played in the Masters Tournament and last year’s Open Championship.
Neil is excited to be able to make his Challenge Tour bow on home soil, though insists he is not feeling any extra pressure now that he has left the amateur ranks behind.
“There’s a lot of excitement this week,” said the Blairgowrie player, who last year had the rare opportunity to represent Europe in the Junior Ryder Cup over his home course. “This is my debut as a professional, and I’m getting to make that debut in Scotland as well which is very important to me. Hopefully I can follow it up with some good golf.
“Last week at Chambers Bay was a bit different. It was challenging but it was the US Open and it was always going to be fun. I had fun all week and playing in front of those crowds was incredible, and it was great to get more experience at that level to help me in turning pro.
There's a lot of excitement this week but I don't feel any added pressure - it's kind of like the day before your birthday, you don't feel any different
“This last year has been a massive learning experience. I got to play three of the biggest tournaments in golf, maybe not quite as well as I want to, but it’s a great learning curve and has helped me make the step that I’ve made.
“I don’t really feel any added pressure, I’m not acting any differently. It’s kind of like the day before your birthday – nothing feels different, you don’t feel any different.
“I’ve been preparing for this all through the last year. I knew that turning pro was going to happen, I just didn’t know what day or time.
“I’m just hoping to play well, beyond that I’m not sure what to expect. But I’ve made the cut in pro tournaments before so that’s something I’m definitely aiming for, and hopefully get a cheque at the end of the week – that would be a positive week for me.”
The Scottish Hydro Challenge, celebrating its tenth staging this week, has not had a home winner since George Murray triumphed in 2010 but Neil is not the only Scottish hope in a strong field.
Heading the pack is Jamie McLeary, the 2009 winner here at the Macdonald Spey Valley course and recent champion at the KPMG Open in Belgium.
McLeary, a member of Team SSE Scottish Hydro, which provides financial support to emerging professionals, has made the cut in five of his seven appearances in this event and currently lies eighth in the Road to Oman Rankings.
A fellow Team SSE Scottish Hydro member, Andrew McArthur, will also be hopeful of ending Scotland’s five-year wait for a home champion.
The 36 year old has been in great form recently, finishing second at the Made In Denmark Challenge and third in the D+D REAL Czech Challenge, and is playing the Scottish Hydro Challenge for the ninth time.
All the top 15 in the Road to Oman Rankings will also be in action, with second-placed Sebastien Gros hoping to gain more ground on leader Nacho Elvira following his dominant victory on home soil in last week’s Nateji Open Presented by Neuflize OBC (video highlights below).