Bob MacIntyre: I'm big enough and bad enough to know risk of playing shinty

Big enough and bad enough to know the risks he’s taking. That was Bob MacIntyre’s message to those expressing concern about him playing shinty after the real truth about his other sporting passion finally came out.

Bob Macintyre talks to the media ahead of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in St Andrews. Picture: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images.

In past conversations about the sport, MacIntyre had always given the impression that he only took part in training sessions with Oban Celtic, the team coached by his dad Dougie, a top player in his heyday.

However, it came out through social media that he had played in an 8-0 win over Aberdour on Saturday and, speaking as he prepared to swap his caman for golf clubs in this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the 25-year-old admitted he’d been caught in the act, so to speak.

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“For obvious reasons, I tried to hide it as much as I could,” said MacIntyre, who plays as a full forward or, in other words, a targetman, joking that he’s built to be able to take a “good hit”.

He added: “People thought I was just going training with my pals. But you can’t just do that. When it’s in your blood and you enjoy something so much, you can’t just do it for fun. You need a competitive edge.

“And that’s where my competitive edge comes from. It’s a battle. And I would say there are only four or five times a season where you get that buzz on a golf course, where you are in contention with a chance to win. On a shinty pitch, you get that every 20 seconds.

“There are tackles coming in, there are bodies flying all over the place. It’s just the ultimate buzz. That’s the only way I can explain it. I mean, I get stitches in my stomach before I walk onto a shinty pitch, like I’m a wee kid again.

“I get that every week on the first tee at a golf tournament, as well. But, if you’re not in contention, you kind of lose that a little bit. On the shinty pitch, it’s just a buzz from the first minute to the last minute.”

Rory McIlroy missed out on defending his Open title at St Andrews in 2015 after injuring himself in a football kickabout with his pals. Is MacIntyre worried that he might put his golf career at risk by playing a sport he admits himself is “wild?”

“Nope,” he replied to that. “I’m 55th in the world playing shinty. I think you could get close to No 1 in the world playing shinty. As much as it’s dangerous. I play indoor fives in the winter as well, with friends. You get a lot of talk on the shinty pitch asking `what are you doing playing shinty’. I reply, the same reason you are, because I enjoy it.

“That’s the reason I play. You guys work however many hours, what do you do in your offtime, go see family, maybe go to the pub? Golf’s my job, I play shinty that’s my off time. I try and find a balance in my life.

“I went to Morocco my first season as a pro and I think I’d made 11 cuts out of 12, and I still wasn’t enjoying it. Away on my own, no family, meeting new guys out here but I then decided to go play shinty and, if you look at the performances from Morocco three years ago, it’s working.

“It’s not just pats on the back we’re talking about here, it’s proper tackles – it’s rough. When the going gets rough, I’m big enough and bad enough to know the risks that I’m taking.

“A lot of sports people have said the mental side of your life is more important than a game of golf. Getting to play shinty as much as I can when I’m at home helps me. Never would I schedule a shinty match ahead of golf. My golf is my No 1 priority and always will be. But, whenever I can get that shinty stick in my hand, I do it.”

Talking with exactly the same passion as he does about his golf, he continued: “You can (break a hand). You probably see I wear a big hockey glove on my right hand because everything is done with the right hand. But, it’s respect, People respect each other for playing the sport. I just play it because I love it."

MacIntyre says his mind has been “decluttered” for this week’s $5.5m event on home soil through playing shinty since missing a third cut in a row earlier in the month.

“When you’re playing shinty, the ball’s flying all over the place, people’s sticks are flying about, and for me it takes my mind completely off of golf. That’s the reason I play it and why everyone around me doesn’t say ‘don’t play,” he said.

“I‘m in as good a mood this week as I’ve been since 15 weeks when I first went back to the States. I’ve been struggling a little bit, but here I feel right back at home.”

As he’s tackling the Old Course on Saturday in the third round of the Dunhill Links, his Oban Celtic team-mates - the youngest player in the side is just 15 and the oldest 28 - will be facing Oban Camanachd in a local derby.

“The thing I love about it is that because it is a wild sport and whatnot, if you’re not in it together, you are in trouble and that, in the last four of five weeks, we’ve really come together,” said MacIntyre, a huge smile appearing on his face.

“I didn’t travel on the team bus on Saturday just in case someone had Covid, so I drove down. But I was disappointed I wasn’t on that bus as it would have been some journey home.”

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