Chris Maclean making impact in amateur ranks

Chris Maclean's latest eye-catching effort in the amater ranks this season was achieved with the same caddie who steered world No 1 Dustin Johnson around Royal County Down as part of a Walker Cup dream team.

Stirling University golfer Chris Maclean.
Stirling University golfer Chris Maclean.

Maclean, a 22-year-old from Clydebank, finished joint-second behind home player Peter O’Keefe in the Irish Open Stroke-Play Championship on Sunday, helped by coming home in 31 as he carded a 67 in the second round on the demanding track.

“Having been advised to hire a caddie due to it being such a tough course, I was lucky to get a guy called Steve – he didn’t actually tell me his second name – who hasn’t only caddied there for 28 years but was also on Dustin Johnson’s bag for the 2007 Walker Cup,” said the Stirling University golf scholar.

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Johnson’s team-mates in that match included Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Webb Simpson, Kyle Stanley, Chris Kirk and Jamie Lovemark while Rory McIlroy and Danny 
Willett were on a defeated home team.

“As you’d expect, he knew the course like the back of his hand,” added Maclean of the local looper, “and, when I got to the turn at one-over in the second round, he turned to me and said, ‘there’s a score to be made in this wind’ – I was 
certainly pleased to prove him right.”

Maclean has now produced two notable performances this year, having been the only player to sit under par after two rounds at El Saler to lead the qualifiers for the Spanish Amateur Championship before losing to the eventual winner, Welshman Jack Davidson, in the opening round.

“My game has been pretty good since the end of last year, when I helped Balmore win the Scottish Club Championship at Stranraer then played some nice stuff out in the European Club Championship in Portugal before then winning a uni event,” said Maclean.

“I’ve managed to carry over some decent stuff into this year and it’s down to a combination of working really hard with my coach, Kevin Craggs, over the last two years and also having (high performance coach) Dean Robertson to lean on at Stirling.

“Kevin changed my ball flight and I’ve started to reap the rewards. He’s such a positive guy and I also think he’s a great coach. He doesn’t mince his words. He’s not given me false hope but, at the same time, he’s built up my confidence. He’s taken me from a bit of a black hole, to be honest, as I had no confidence at all to slowly but surely getting better and better.

“As for Dean, I am also learning about the game as a whole as opposed to just hitting a ball all the time and that definitely helps. When I first went to Stirling, I was an average scratch player at the age of 18 and he gave me a chance to improve all aspects of my game.

“He teaches you how to control the golf ball so that you can play in the wind or play these big, long golf courses. He teaches you how to manage the golf course a lot better, having been there and done it himself (Robertson is a former European Tour winner) and that’s invaluable.

“I’ve always been a good pitcher and putter but Dean has helped that a lot while Kevin has sorted out my long game. It’s all coming together, both parts of my game are now working in tandem, which is nice to see, and hopefully it will continue.”

Maclean’s two main goals this year are earning a place in Scotland’s 10-man team for the Home Internationals at Moortown in Yorkshire in August and trying to get in the medals at the World University Games in Chinese Taipei later the same month.

“I’ve been given an invitation for the Brabazon Trophy at Woodhall Spa next week then have Scottish Stroke Play, St Andrews Links then British Amateur and, hopefully, I can also carry this sort of form into those events,” he said.