IT’S a tall order due to the strength of the junior game in the current era but, on the evidence of six days’ golf at Monifieth, Bradley Neil would surely be a handy player for Stuart Wilson, the non-playing European captain, to have in his team for next year’s Junior Ryder Cup at Blairgowrie.
The fact he’d have home advantage on its own is an instant asset but, even more important in arguably the biggest event on the under-18 fixture list in golf, Neil clearly has the game to perform at such a lofty level.
He emerged as a worthy winner in the SGU Scottish Boys’ Championship’s first visit to the Angus coast, capping a majestic week’s golf with a 4 and 2 success over Ewan Scott from St Andrews in Saturday’s final involving the top two seeds.
“Hopefully the fact the Junior Ryder Cup is being played at my home club will give me the edge while it’s also exciting that Stuart Wilson is the captain next September,” admitted Neil, 17, after taking revenge for a quarter-final defeat in the same event last year.
“I have played under him in team events at the Home Internationals, and with him being a very experienced amateur player it would be fantastic to play under him again in such an event.”
Selection is based on performances in leading European junior events. “They have two spots for under-16s and four spots for under-18s, both boys and girls, and last year I just missed out on selection for the under-16s,” added the Scot.
“I was very disappointed because I’d had a good year but just came up short. The fact it’s now coming to Blairgowrie gives you so much motivation to do well and make the team – it’s the one event that I want to get into most next year.
“Everyone at my club is expecting massive things from me so to be able to cap that off with an appearance there in a Junior Ryder Cup would be fantastic. I get reminded of it quite a lot. The members are all going on about it saying ‘you’d better be in that team so I can come and watch you play’. No pressure then! But I’m prepared for the challenge ahead and I’m sure I’ll be able to deal with them as I have in the last couple of years.”
Last week’s SGU event effectively marked the end of boys’ golf for both Neil and Scott, a beaten finalist for the second year running but with a Scottish Youths’ title already under his belt from last season.
“Men’s events are going to be my aim for the rest of this year,” admitted Neil, who is close to finishing his term at Blairgowrie High School and is pondering a college scholarship in the United States.
“It was a big target to win this championship, but I’ve entered the next two ranking events – the Craigmillar Park and the Battle Trophy – and I think I can compete.
“I’ve already helped Perthshire win the Men’s Area Team Championships. We [him and Ewan] are entering these events not just to build up our experience, we’re entering them to win.”
Scott, who is committed to a term at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga starting in the autumn, has already made his mark against older players, notably in reaching the semi-finals of this year’s South African Amateur Championship.
“I’ve had a few good results in men’s events so far this year and I’m not defending my youths’ title next month,” he said. “I’m playing in the Irish Strokeplay instead. The goal for the season is playing in the Mens’ Home International team and I think that’s attainable.”