Bradley Neil says Scots look ‘strong’ on Challenge Tour

Blairgowrie's Bradley Neil is among five Scots competing in the Barclays Kenya Open in Nairobi this week. Picture: Getty Images
Blairgowrie's Bradley Neil is among five Scots competing in the Barclays Kenya Open in Nairobi this week. Picture: Getty Images
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Bradley Neil is hoping to be part of a Scottish success story on this season’s Challenge Tour, which swings into action in Africa tomorrow.

The Barclays Kenya Open, which takes place at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi, is the first of 27 events on the second-tier circuit’s 2017 schedule.

It involves visits to 21 countries, with Neil being joined in the first one on that list by Craig Lee, Chris Doak, David Law and Ross Kellett.

For Lee and Doak, it’s the start of a journey that could lead them back to the European Tour, where both held playing rights two seasons ago and Lee only lost his at the end of the 2016 campaign.

Neil, Law and Kellett, meanwhile, are all hoping this campaign will see them earn a step up to the main Tour for the first time next year or, failing that, in the near future.

“The Scottish guys this year look strong,” said Neil, the 2014 Amateur champion from Blairgowrie. “You’ve got Craig and Chris - two really experienced campaigners - coming back out here.

“There’s also younger guys like David, myself and Ross, who I think has a really good shout this year. A lot of the courses out here suit him and he’s also a really hard worker.”

Hard work has also been the key to Neil earning himself this season’s opportunity after taking time to find his feet in the professional ranks.

He played in six Challenge Tour events in 2015, finishing 164th in the Road to Oman, where he then ended up 177th last year from 11 starts.

Light at the end of the tunnel, though, came through his performance in the European Tour Qualifying School in the final few months of 2016.

Neil won a stage-one event in Austria, comfortably progressed through the second phase before making a 72-hole cut in the six-round final in Spain.

His Challenge Tour category for this year was secured in the process, with the 21-year-old sounding as though he has regained the confidence that was so evident in his amateur days.

Making the cut in the Australian PGA Championship in December would have helped in that respect and now Neil is raring and ready to go.

“I spent a long time at home with my coach over the wnter and I enjoyed working on my game, a bit like it used to be in the amateur game at that time of the year,” he said.

“I’ve not had the chance to grind on things for a while and hopefully I will see the benefit of that this season, starting this week.

“Considering how the first year and a half of my pro career has gone, I feel very fortunate to be the position I’m in, but fortunately my game came good at the Q School last year.

“The top 15 is obviously the main prize up for grabs on the Challenge Tour, but the strength in depth out here is incredible.

“So, realistically if I was to finish in the top 45 and get to the Grand Final, also getting to the final stage of the Q School, I’d be happy with that as it would mean two good opportunities to get a main Tour card.”