Grant Forrest reflects on three stellar seasons as he returns to Dunhill Links Championship

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Three years after making his professional debut in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Grant Forrest is ahead of schedule as he returns to the same stage this week.

It was a dream opportunity for the Lothians star at the start of his career in the paid ranks when he secured an invitation to play in the pro-am at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns in 2016.

And, as he hit the ground running, Forrest made the 54-hole cut before going on to finish just outside the top 40 in the first of Tyrrell Hatton’s back-to-back title triumphs.

“The time has certainly flown in since then,” admitted Forrest, speaking as he prepared to join ten other Scots in this year’s $5 million event.

“When I turned pro, I didn’t want to be on the Challenge Tour for any more than three years and I got out here after two seasons.”

The 26-year-old led four Scots in securing a step up to the main tour from the second-tier circuit last year and has already locked up his place at the top table again next season.

Helped by two top-ten finishes, as well as a top 15 in the Irish Open, a Rolex Series event, he sits 80th in the Race to Dubai so is pressure free heading into the final few tournaments of his rookie campaign.

“The card is secured as I think it will probably go down to the top 115-116, as it usually does, so I am just focused on trying to get into the last three events of the season in Turkey, South Africa and Dubai,” he said.

“This season has been a huge learning curve. I have learned a lot about myself, both in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

“There has been a lot of good stuff in there and when I’ve been on it has been good enough for me to be right up there.

“I can take positives from that and build on them for next season, when I will by trying to get my game in a position where I can be up there more often.

“Morocco was probably my best chance of getting a win this season. I was right up there after 63 holes, but couldn’t get it going on the back nine.

“But it was the first time of being in that position out here and it was great to be there and I know what I am capable of.

Forrest, who will have Oliver Baker, the grandson of former R&A secretary Sir Michael Bonallack, as his amateur partner, starts out today at St Andrews before moving on to Carnoustie then St Andrews.

“Comparing my game to where it was three years ago, it’s at a different level now,” said the North Berwick man.

“You don’t have to make massive changes out here. It is just about going about your business, I think that’s the big thing. It is extremely competitive, so you have to try and tighten up everything.

“It is a grind and having played a lot of tournaments this year it is mentally draining. The first year out unless you have a big result early on, you don’t really have the luxury of picking and choosing, so I hace played a bit more than I would have liked in an ideal world.

“Looking forward to next year, I should get into all the big events, including the BMW PGA at Wentworth and the Dubai Desert Classic. And all the Rolex Series events, which have served me well this year.

“They tend to be on the more challenging courses and I seem to have done a bit better on them.”

As Forrest was speaking, Justin Timberlake, who is partnering Olympic champion and world No. 4 Justin Rose, walked past him on the practice range at St Andrews.

“It is quite surreal seeing all the stars from different areas,” he said of that.

“You just have to pinch yourself but usually when you see most of them hit a golf ball, you feel a bit more comfortable standing next to them on the range.

“But, in fairness, I am sure they are probably more nervous than we are!”