Grant Forrest overcomes huge emotional void to do family proud
The occasion was the 2010 Scottish Boys’ Championship at West Kilbride, where Grant had just claimed the title after beating Ian Redford in the final, having earlier accounted for the pre-tournament favourite, Jack McDonald, on the Ayrshire coast.
I’ve come across lots of proud dads covering this great game, but there was just something about the look on Graeme’s face that day that has stuck with me and always will.
Just over two years later, when Grant added the Scottish Amateur Championship at Royal Dornoch, Graeme was no longer around to share another special moment, having lost a fight with cancer just two weeks beforehand.
He’s since missed out on so much more, including Grant’s Open debut as an amateur on his doorstep at Muirfield in 2013, a winning Walker Cup appearance at Royal Lytham two years later and now something really special.
“I wish he was here to see this, he’d be so chuffed,” said Grant as he savoured his breakthrough European Tour victory in the Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews on Sunday. “He’s been the big inspiration and a lot of the reason why I’ve really knuckled down and kept going when times were tough.”
The Forrest family lived in West Lothian when Graeme, who had a successful painting and decorating business, introduced Grant to golf before a move to East Lothian provided him with the platform to make his mark in the game.
Part of a strong crop of youngsters at Craigielaw, where he made the most of the club’s top-class practice facilities and six-hole par-3 course, he’d already claimed the Scottish Under-16s Championship before that West Kilbride win.
In addition to the subsequent national title triumph up at Royal Dornoch, his knack of getting the job done as an amateur continued during a spell at the University of San Diego.
Forrest’s game had gone off the boil a bit when he played in that Walker Cup win. Wisely, he held off for a year before turning professional in 2016 and, while it will probably come as a surprise to some, he’s had to wait until now for his first taste of success in the paid ranks.
During last month’s Scottish Open, he admitted that he’d decided to take back ownership of his game, having reached a stage where his head had become too cluttered with swing thoughts as a consequence of some chopping and changing with coaches.
“As I was reviewing everything after the British Masters at The Belfry,” he said of a disappointing early exit from that event in May, “I thought back to early 2019 when I didn’t have too much coaching input, I was just going out and playing golf and it’s easy to get away from that.
“You can be over-coached out here and get into that when you don’t really need it. I’m just stripping it all back.”
Listening to him on the range that day at The Renaissance Club, you felt confident his game was heading in the right direction again and some of the shots he produced in Sunday’s final round in St Andrews were of the highest quality.
How fitting that mum Audrey and sister Alisa in particular but also girlfriend Christy Farrell were there to share the moment, which may have been a bit longer coming than some expected but, make no mistake, winning at the top level is anything but easy.
“It’s one thing doing well in amateur golf but turning pro and doing it week-in, week-out on different golf courses is something else,” admitted the 26th Scottish player to taste success on the European circuit. “I’ve had to make a lot of improvements and changes to my game to get to this point. It’s just really fulfilling to see it come off this week.”
After both also finished in the top five on home soil, it might not be too long before David Law and Calum Hill are saying the same thing, the former currently enjoying the best spell of his European Tour career as he chases a second win and the latter continuing to knock loudly at the door this season.
The Saltire flying proudly on the European Tour came in the same week that an exciting crop of Scottish youngsters, both boys and girls, came within a whisker of winning the first mixed Home Internationals at Woodhall Spa.
Despite that disappointment, they’ll be excited about what the future might hold and rightly so, but, as Forrest can testify, it takes blood, sweat and tears to just be in with a chance of seeing dreams come true once players start climbing that ladder and find try to play the game for a living.
“Golf’s a funny game, you never know when it’s going to click and when it’s going to be your week,” said Forrest. "You keep doing the right things, trusting that and, fortunately, this week was our week.”
The first of many hopefully for an outstanding young man who continues to do his family proud.
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