BRADLEY Neil, who has just jumped nearly 40 places to 63rd in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, will not defend his Scottish Boys’ title at West Kilbride in three weeks’ time.
The 18-year-old from Blairgowrie, who claimed the crown at Monifieth by beating Ewan Scott from St Andrews in a final involving the top two seeds, has dropped the SGU’s flagship under-18 tournament from his schedule so that he can concentrate on men’s events this year.
While Neil is playing in this weekend’s rescheduled Scottish Junior Champion of Champions at The Duke’s, that is mainly in preparation for the European Men’s Individual Amateur Championship at the same St Andrews venue in August. That will be one of the key events in terms of selection for the Great Britain & Ireland team to take on the Continent of Europe in Sweden later the same month in the St Andrews Trophy, a stepping stone to next year’s Walker Cup at Royal Lytham.
And, after sitting down with Ian Rae, the Scottish national coach, to discuss his 2014 schedule, Neil has opted to play in two men’s events – the Scottish Champion of Champions at Leven and Duncan Putter at Southerndown in Wales – instead of trying to become just the fourth player to successfully defend the national boys’ match-play title.
“I wanted to play in the Scottish Boys because you always like to defend a title if you get that opportunity. Ian Rae knew that and said it was up to me. But it makes sense for me to concentrate on the men’s events this season,” said Neil.
“If I’d decided to go to West Kilbride, it would have meant rushing through there on the Monday morning after playing in the Champion of Champions at Leven over the weekend. Making it through to the final again would also have had an impact the following weekend.
“It’s the Craigmillar Park Open then but, instead, I’m going down to Wales to play in the Duncan Putter at Souterndown. It carries more ranking points and some of the top English lads play in it, so I think that’s the better option for me.
“I’m disappointed that I won’t be defending at West Kilbride, especially as it’s where I played in my first Scottish Boys and would have been a nice place to bow out, but I’ve progressed so much in the last eight months that I now need to focus on men’s events.”
That progress has seen Neil break into the world’s top 100 for the first time, having jumped 38 spots on the back of finishing second in the individual event in the European Nations Cup at Sotogrande, where the Perthshire player won a play-off against Italy to secure team honours for Scotland. Prior to that, on a winter training trip to the Rainbow Nation as part of the Scottish squad, he finished runner-up in the South African Amateur Championship and third in the Guateng North Open.
“I’ve been to places I’ve never been before and played in competitions I’ve not played in before so to put in those performances – leading in every single one at some stage – was pleasing,” admitted Neil, whose goals this season include trying to make the European team for the Junior Ryder Cup at Blairgowrie.
“So, too, is breaking into the top 100 in the world rankings at the start of the season. It all shows that the hard work is paying off and that’s nice.”