NIGEL Edwards, the Great Britain & Ireland captain, has admitted it would be a blow to lose Bradley Neil to the professional ranks before this year’s Walker Cup after seeing a winning instinct in the Blairgowrie teenager with both a golf club and table tennis bat in his hands.
Neil, the Amateur champion, is believed to be favouring a switch straight after next month’s US Open at Chambers Bay, by which time, having already played in the Masters, he will also have teed up, through invitations, in the Irish Open at Royal County Down and The Memorial at Muirfield Village.
Bradley is a really great match player and a great competitorNigel Edwards
The 19-year-old revealed at Augusta National, where he played a practice round with Rory McIlroy, that he had “verbally committed” to a management company, which is understood to be Excel Sports, a global firm that has both Tiger Woods and Justin Rose among its clients.
Their preference is likely to be for Neil to be dipping his toe as a professional sooner rather than later – he’d be entitled to up to seven invitations to try to secure his European Tour card without facing an end-of-season visit to the Qualifying School – and, if so, he will probably be pursuing his new career by the time the Walker Cup comes around in September at Royal Lytham.
“Bradley hasn’t spoken to me per se about when he is turning pro, but based on what he was tweeting during The Masters it would seem as if he has decided which management company he is going with,” said Edwards, who will be at the GB&I helm for the third match running in the biennial bout.
“I’m not privy to what he is being offered, but I’m guessing that it looks as though he is turning pro after the US Open. I certainly hope that is not the case because Bradley is a really great match player and a great competitor.
“I noticed that when he was in the GB&I boys’ team three years ago at Portmarnock. We were playing table tennis and he was wanting to win badly. Somebody with that competitiveness will rub off on other players. That’s the type of player you want in the team.”
Edwards intended to have a chat with Neil last night ahead of the Lytham Trophy, the importance of which could have added significance this year due to the match against the Americans being played at the same venue that hosts the 72-hole event along with Fairhaven.
Third 12 months ago, Neil spearheads a Scottish contingent that also includes Bearsden’s Ewen Ferguson, a two-times winner on the Scottish circuit already this season, and Daniel Young, the Craigie Hill player who followed up his South African Amateur Championship success earlier in the year with a recent success in the Battle Trophy at Crail.
It was a cause of real embarrassment when, for the first time since 1949, the last Walker Cup took place on the other side of the Atlantic two years ago without a single Scot in the GB&I ranks. While unable to provide any guarantees that there will be no repeat when the ten-man team is selected during the weekend of the US Amateur Championship in August, Edwards is pleased to see the likes of Ferguson, Young and Craigielaw’s Grant Forrest all producing eye-catching performances.
“These things come in cycles and I felt after the match two years ago that the likes of Ewen Ferguson, Grant Forrest and Bradley Neil could be challenging for this Walker Cup,” admitted the Welshman, who played in two winning teams as a player before completing the hat-trick as captain at Royal Aberdeen against an American side that included new Masters champion Jordan Spieth.
“It’s good to see Ewen starting the season so well and Grant has also been doing well in America. I’d have to say that I wasn’t aware of Daniel Young until fairly recently but, ultimately, players are going to have to pile on the results to prove they are of Walker Cup standard. I hope that Daniel, like everyone else in the frame, keeps pushing on and showing a determination and desire to get in that team as it is special being part of a Walker Cup and even more special being part of a winning Walker Cup team.
“I think there are definitely players still out there who want to play in the Walker Cup. Management companies will be saying you need to turn pro now because after the Walker Cup there will be less spots available in pro events, but surely there is nothing wrong with someone having a dream of playing in a Walker Cup then turning pro.”