How shinty proved 'game-changer' once more for Bob MacIntyre

Change of sport resulted in ‘injuries’ but it was tonic Oban man needed before landing biggest win of career

Long before he openly admitted he was finding the PGA Tour a “lonely place”, Bob MacIntyre had discovered there are always bumps in the road in professional sport and it comes down to the individual how to get over them and ultimately keep climbing the ladder.

In 2019, his first season on the DP World Tour, the left-hander returned to Oban following a run of events that culminated with a missed cut in Morocco and found himself questioning if tour life and being so far away from home for prolonged spells was actually what he wanted in his career.

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Swapping a golf club for a shinty stick was the catalyst for him returning to the circuit with a clear head and the hint of a spring back in his step and, a few months later, the change in his mood and mindset was there for all to see as he was crowned as Rookie of the Year.

Bob MacIntyre poses with the trophy alongside his dad and caddie Dougie and girlfriend Shannon Hartley after winning the RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf & Country Club on June 02, 2024 in Hamilton, Ontario, last weekend. Picture: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images.Bob MacIntyre poses with the trophy alongside his dad and caddie Dougie and girlfriend Shannon Hartley after winning the RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf & Country Club on June 02, 2024 in Hamilton, Ontario, last weekend. Picture: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images.
Bob MacIntyre poses with the trophy alongside his dad and caddie Dougie and girlfriend Shannon Hartley after winning the RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf & Country Club on June 02, 2024 in Hamilton, Ontario, last weekend. Picture: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images.

Five years on, changing sport for a short spell has worked again for the 27-year-old, this time proving the tonic that transformed his first season as a full card holder on the PGA Tour in spectacular style as his RBC Canadian Open title triumph seven days ago saw him become just the fifth Scot to win on the US circuit after Sandy Lyle, Ken Brown, Martin Laird and Russell Knox.

MacIntyre knows the risk he takes by stepping on to a shinty field in the colours of his beloved Oban Celtic and admitted “injuries” had been sustained on this occasion. But it’s in his blood and, quite clearly, the fulfilment he gets from it every now and again is going to be a key factor in whatever lies ahead on a journey that looks as though it is just getting started.

“I think it was just getting home,” said MacIntyre, speaking on a media call set up by the PGA Tour’s London office, of what he felt had changed, having struggled to produce his best golf earlier in the year after being among ten players to secure cards for this year through the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai before holding off defending champion Rory McIlroy among others to land a career-changing victory at Hamilton Golf & Country Club in Ontario.

“A couple of months ago, I wasn’t enjoying playing golf in America. “It was just so different and I felt like I couldn’t escape away from golf, as much as I tried to. Even going back to Orlando (where he has been renting a house since January), not touching the clubs for a few days, then going back to another tournament, it felt like there was no escape from the golfing world.

“Me and my girlfriend Shannon [Harper] came home, spent time with family and friends, had a couple of games of shinty and a couple of injuries (smiling). No joke, I touched the clubs twice in three weeks. I felt like I was back living a normal life. It was great. I was back home with people who just treat me like Bob, rather than Robert MacIntyre the golfer. Ultimately, I’m just a normal guy that plays golf for a living.

"For me and Shannon, we’re starting to realise that although the facilities in Orlando are brilliant, we’ll still get home to Scotland any time we have a decent break. I think that was a massive turning point for me this season. I then went back out to the Zurich (Classic of New Orleans, a team event that saw him join forces with Belgian Thomas Detry) and I wanted to play golf again. Even though I was struggling a little bit with an injury, I wanted to hit golf balls again.”

Under totally different circumstances - it was for a well-deserved celebration on this occasion - MacIntyre has been back in Oban once more over the past few days before turning his attention to his next assignment, the US Open starting on Thursday at Pinehurst. Heading into the season’s third major, he admits that competing on the PGA Tour, tough as it may have been at times, is making him a better player, as he was hoping it would after earning the opportunity to play against the game’s top players on a more frequent basis.

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“Yeah, totally,” he said, reflecting on a success that catapulted him back into the top 50 in the world, secured his card until the end of 2026 and booked a spot in next year’s Masters. “You’ve got more resources out there and the weather is a massive part of that as well. The facilities are unbelievable week in, week out. The greens run the same speed most weeks. You can get into a rhythm. You are chasing the sun a lot of the time.

“It’s taken me a wee while to learn how to do different things. Things like chipping. I always thought I was a good chipper of the golf ball until I went over there. Your ball can be sitting against the grain, it’s a bit wet, so your technique has to change. You can’t just play the same shot. If I mistime it, I’ll hit it two yards in front of me when I’m trying to hit it 20 yards. It’s simple stuff I took for granted because I wasn’t brought up playing on the Bermuda grass. It’s little things like that.”

Even though he was a member of Europe’s Ryder Cup-winning team in Rome last autumn, more often than not MacIntyre found himself heading out either very early or very late in his events this season, but, on the back of the biggest win of his career, which was achieved with his dad, Dougie, caddying for him, that should now change. “Yeah, I’ll pop the champagne when I see it!” he said, laughing. “No, 100 per cent, I’ll get better tee times. I totally understand the way they do it. But I think for the ten guys coming out from the DP World Tour next year, it might change for them – because I’ve moaned enough about it!”

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