IF CONFIDENCE is the key, Bradley Neil can climb to the top of the golfing ladder. Oozing with the stuff, the 17-year-old from Blairgowrie came out on top in a friendly final with Ewan Scott to be crowned as Scottish Boys’ champion.
It was the second year running that Scott, an unassuming St Andrean, fell at the final hurdle in the SGU event. But he, too, has enormous potential, having already claimed the Scottish Youths’ title at the age of 16 last year.
On this occasion, however, Neil was a worthy winner in a match played in a tremendous spirit given the prize up for grabs.
Having played just 94 holes in seven rounds, he didn’t break sweat in reaching the final.
When the chips were down, though, he also showed appetite for a fight.
Scott, who’d used winter trips to Australia, South Africa and China to blow away the winter cobwebs, fought back from two down after 13 holes in the two-round joust to be all square at lunch.
A birdie-2 at the 15th followed by a spectacular eagle at the last, where he holed a bunker shot, undid Neil’s earlier good work, which included back-to-back birdies at the seventh and eighth and another one at the 13th.
When Neil also made a 3 at the latter in the afternoon, it was the first time in the contest that either player had held a three-hole lead. In his semi-final, Scott had escaped from such a position but, on this occasion, it proved too tall an order for the top seed.
“It was great for both of us that the final was played in that sort of spirit,” said Neil after wrapping up a 4&2 triumph to claim his third national title after back-to-back wins in the Scottish Under-14s Championship in 2009-10.
“There was plenty of chat and I think we both played exceptionally well.”
Ultimately, the contest was decided by two imperious blows from Neil.
First, from a scrub area close to the out of bounds fence at the sixth, he holed an 8-iron from 129 yards for an eagle-2 to go two up for the first time in the afternoon.
Then, after Scott had failed to convert an eight-foot birdie chance at the 12th, the Perthshire player slammed the door shut on his opponent with a fine second from an uphill scraggy lie to within a couple of feet at the next to go three up.
“It is great to hit shots like those anytime but to do it in the Scottish Boys’ final is amazing,” added the new champion.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to hit shots like that when they’re needed.”
Scott reckoned the lunch break had come at the wrong time for him. “The momentum was with me but, in the afternoon, you have to say that Brad was four or five-under,” said the runner-up.
“It was good play by him rather than poor play by me.”