It’s one thing getting the chance to freewheel in golf but you still have to execute the shots. Full marks then to Grant Forrest for his first-round effort – the best among ten Scots – in the Turkish Airlines Challenge at Gloria Golf Club in Belek.
The 22-year-old’s four-under-par 68 may have been eclipsed by John Hahn on a day when the American streaked three shots clear of the field with a sizzling 63, but it was a splendid performance nonetheless.
Forrest, after all, is still an amateur. Along with Ewen Ferguson, he’s playing here to gain some experience against the professionals and also try to secure some ranking points for when he does join the paid ranks, probably next season.
To shoot four-under was impressive from the Craigielaw man. To do so without putting a foot wrong even more so. “That will do nicely,” he said after maintaining the form that had brought him here on the back of a Battle Trophy triumph at Crail as well as a top-five finish in the Lytham Trophy.
Forrest, Scotland’s top-ranked amateur, had felt jaded after a hectic start to the year involved trips to Australia, South Africa, Spain and Portugal. He took a break instead of playing in events such as the Scottish Champion of Champions and Craigmillar Park Open and is reaping the rewards.
“I felt really good off the tee today and that made it easier for myself out there,” added the 2012 Scottish Amateur champion. “I had a few more chances to the ones I took as well, burning the edge of the hole with them.”
As he will eventually discover, playing this game for a living adds extra pressure. This week, though, it’s a stress-free experience, as will be the case when both Forrest and Ferguson move on to Italy next week for the next event on the second-tier circuit.
“I felt nervous on the first tee, but I wouldn’t say it was any different than normal,” said Forrest. “And I am coming into this week with nothing to lose, so that’s a good position to be in.”
Inspired by his compatriot’s morning work, Ferguson also broke par, signing for a 70, in the afternoon, when a thunderstorm halted play for 50 minutes, but the opening round was completed on schedule despite lightning flashing on and off nearby.
The proceedings earlier in the day had definitely been lit up by Hahn, a 27-year-old who hails from Columbus in Ohio, which is home, of course, to Jack Nicklaus.
Hahn agonisingly missed out on a step up to the European Tour for this season after he toppled out of the top 15 in the Road to Oman in the final event last November. More displays like the one that yielded an eagle and seven birdies, though, and his place at the top table has merely been put on hold.
Helped by four birdies in his last five holes, Jack Doherty fared best of the rest after Forrest among the Scots as he carded a 69. “I also played well at the start, just didn’t hole any putts, but that was certainly a nice way to finish,” said the tall Ayrshireman. Ferguson’s effort, meanwhile, matched that of Duncan Stewart, who was happy to avoid the sort of hangover which can often follow a win and he, of course, claimed a maiden victory on the circuit in Madrid last weekend.
For Jack McDonald, it was an early lesson about life in the professional ranks. One-under early on, he had to settle for a two-over 74 after making a “couple of silly mistakes”. No-one, though, said this game was easy.