Encouragement for Bradley Neil and Ewen Ferguson

Bradley Neil made the cut for just the second time since turning professional. Picture: Getty Images
Bradley Neil made the cut for just the second time since turning professional. Picture: Getty Images
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Making the cut may not normally be anything to write home about but let’s indulge Ewen Ferguson and Bradley Neil for both achieving that feat in the Turkish Airlines Challenge.

Ferguson, after all, has made it to the weekend in the Challenge Tour event at Gloria Golf Club as an amateur while Neil is still standing after the halfway stage for just the second time since he joined the paid ranks last June.

Both were delighted; both are now hoping to get a confidence boost from the achievement and climb the leaderboard. With eight and ten shots respectively to make up on the leader, Frenchman Matthieu Pavon, it’s unlikely, though, that either can hit the heights reached by compatriot Duncan Stewart, last weekend’s winner in Madrid.

Stewart is also still in the reckoning here and Ross Kellett, too. Excitement, though, quickly turned into disappointment for Grant Forrest, the other Scottish amateur in the line-up. His opening 68 was bogey-free; the 76 that followed was birdie-free until the final hole.

The 22-year-old missed out by one shot, joining Jack McDonald in suffering that fate while early exits also befell David Law, Peter Whiteford, Paul Shields and Jack Doherty on this occasion.

Ferguson, the 2013 British Boys’ champion, had been bitterly disappointed after suffering that fate in an amateur event – the Lytham Trophy, admittedly – last weekend. He’d been encouraged, though, by some of his play there and two rounds that have each contained four birdies have certainly put a spring in his step here.

“The main thing I was wanting to do here was make the cut and I wouldn’t have cared if it was on the dot,” admitted Ferguson, who did so with something to spare, sitting joint 26th on four-under. “It means I can relax a bit more over the weekend.”

While the 19-year-old Bearsden player chipped in for a birdie 2 at the 15th, he picked out a par save as the key moment in his second circuit. “I was two-under for the tournament playing the second, which was my 11th, and holed a seven-footer for par,” he said. “When I was reading it, I said to myself ‘this is a big momentum putt’.

“Holing that kept me going and, though I missed some chances, I stayed patient before making birdies at the sixth and eighth, my 15th and 17th holes.

“What’s pleased me most about the last couple of days is that I’ve channelled my energy in the right way.”

Fearless and full of confidence, Neil was in Ferguson’s shoes 12 months ago. A tough start to life as a pro has dented some of those attributes, but the 20-year-old is hoping it will be a case of onwards and upwards from here.

“Making the cut will definitely give me a big confidence boost,” admitted Neil, having played in 14 events split between the European Tour and Challenge Tour as a professional but picking up a cheque just once – on the second-tier circuit in La Gomera last July.

On the evidence here so far, it’s been a bit more like the Neil that we saw winning the Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush in 2014. He could easily have crumbled after running up two double-bogeys in three holes just after the turn in his first round but knuckled down to grind out a 72. His 
subsequent 70 contained six birdies. “To go from being ten over par after two rounds in Madrid last week to being two under here shows my game is getting there,” insisted the Blairgowrie man.

There was no hiding Forrest’s disappointment after his good work from 24 hours earlier was undone in a flash. “I just played poor – it was sloppy today,” said the Craigielaw player. “It is really disappointment to miss the cut, especially when you have such a good first round, but that’s golf.” No doubt Doherty shared that sentiment after seeing his opening 69 being followed with a 78.

Pavon, a 23-year-old, backed up an opening 68 with a 64 to sit on 12 under par. He leads by two shots from compatriot Clement Sordet and Swede Sebastian Soderberg, the early pacesetter in this season’s Road to Oman.