Martin Dempster: World stage welcomes Bob MacIntyre's arrival

It will sink in when I get drawn with someone big.' Bob MacIntyre's words when he sat down for a natter with me and other members of the golf press corps almost exactly a month ago before embarking on his first season as a new European Tour card holder.

Playing with two world stars has given Bob MacIntyres self-belief a boost in his first year on the European Tour. Picture: SNS.

He used Tommy Fleetwood and Patrick Reed as examples of what he meant by “big” in the following week’s Hong Kong Open and, though neither of those pairings materialised at Fanling, it has indeed now sunk in for MacIntyre that his dream of playing on the world’s top circuits has come true.

Not once but twice in the South African Open, MacIntyre had Ernie Els, a four-time major winner, in his group at Randpark. Oh, and on one of those occasions, the three-ball was made up by a former Masters champion, Charl Schwartzel. Just think about that for a minute. In only his third event since securing a seat at the top table in European golf, here we had a 22-year-old from Oban in the spotlight alongside two global stars and South African sporting legends.

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“When I was paired with Ernie in the third round, I was very nervous and, for sure, realised I am now on the European Tour and competing against the best,” admitted MacIntyre, one of the four Scottish newcomers on the circuit for the 2019 campaign after graduating on the back of strong seasons on the 
Challenge Tour.

“Then the final round just blew me away. I was the most nervous I have ever been on a first tee playing with Ernie and Charl. I’ve watched them both for years winning majors. So to play with them gives me a lot of confidence and valuable experience going forward.”

MacIntyre matched Els in both rounds with scores of 68 and 71. The latter beat Schwartzel’s closing effort by one as the Scottish left-hander finished in the top 15.

“Personally, I knew I had enough game to compete out here, but the last two rounds have confirmed that not only to me but to everyone watching,” said MacIntyre.

“For me to go out for two rounds with Ernie and one round with Charl and not to get beat by any over 18 holes is going to put me in good shape going 

One thing golf clubs can’t afford to do in the ongoing fight against dropping membership is sit on their backsides and do nothing. If possible, they have to keep trying to come up with new ideas, so well done in that respect to Haddington.

The East Lothian club is currently in the middle of a four-week trial that has involved changing the route of the course to feature two distinct nine-hole loops.

The main aim is to allow the club to sell nine-hole tickets and, if members give the new layout the green light in an upcoming ballot, then run nine-hole competitions.

“We feel it is vitally important to explore new ways of attracting more people to the game,” said Scott Thomson, the club’s PGA professional and general manager. 
“We must adapt to show that people can still enjoy golf despite having less free time than 
ever before.

“There is a very positive feeling about Haddington Golf Club right now and we want as many people as possible to get involved.”

Much as I enjoyed the old layout, it surely has to be a no brainer.

Add Louis Oosthuizen to a list of experienced European Tour campaigners who will feel that a major victory could well be on the cards in 2019.In winning his home Open for the first time, the South African joined Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Danny Willett in giving themselves massive confidence boosts over the past few weeks.

It’s incredible, really, that Oosthuizen’s 2010 Open Championship victory remains his only major success to date but, at 36, he could still have his best years ahead.

The man from Mossel Bay has a swing to die for but, like many others over the years, he’s had his struggles, hence the emotional reaction to returning to the winner’s circle.