'Phenomenal' season continues for rising Scottish star Connor Graham

With his mop of tousled hair, Connor Graham looks a bit like Rory McIlroy when he was a youngster, something his dad, Stuart, often jokes about.

Blairgowrie's Connor Graham in action during this year's Scottish Amateur Championship at Murcar Links. Picture: Scottish Golf

The pair have more than just that in common, though, because 14-year-old Graham has almost been making people sit up and take notice of him this year the way McIlroy did at the same age.

The Blairgowrie player created history in the Scottish Amateur Championship as the youngest player to reach the semi-final, and it would have been the final but for the eventual winner, Angus Carrick, birdieing the last two holes against him.

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In the junior ranks, he won the Barrie Douglas Junior Masters, lifted Paul Lawrie Junior Jug and, most recently, claimed victory in The Race to Machrie.

Representing Scotland, he claimed four points out of five in the combined Boys’ and Girls’ Home Internationals at Woodhall Spa and also secured a Great Britain & Ireland boys’ cap in the Jacques Leglise Trophy in Sweden.

“It’s been a phenomenal year,” Graham, who plays off plus four, told The Scotsman, speaking straight after he’d got in from school then planning to head back out for a game at Blairgowrie before the light started to fade as the nights draw in.

“I thought at the start of the year that I was playing good enough to achieve some of the goals I had. But some of the stuff I’ve achieved has probably surpassed my expectations, to be honest.

“I think the most confidence I’ve gained is from playing in the Jacques Leglise because getting selected to represent GB&I is a huge thing. The Scottish Amateur was also big as it showed that I could compete against the top amateurs in Scotland.”

Connor Graham shows off the trophy after his weekend win in The Race to Machrie. Picture: Race to Machrie

Graham was just 12 and tiny when he teed up the 2019 edition at Crail alongside his dad and elder brother Gregor, who recently headed off to start a scholarship at Midland College in Texas.

Starting to sprout a bit, Connor used last winter to bulk up in the gym and, according to his dad, has added 30 yards to his game in the process in beginning to give Gregor a run for his money in the battle for bragging rights at home.

“It’s hard to tell if I knew they were going to get hooked on it, to be honest,” said Stuart, who has been happy to put his own game on hold at the moment to do everything he can along with his wife, June, to try and let the two boys blossom in the game.

“Gregor certainly got into it straight away, as did Connor before he went off it for a bit and went back to playing football. He then got moved about a few positions and came back to golf.

Connor Graham with Paul Lawrie after winning the 1999 Open champion's Junior Jug event at Newmachar earlier in the year. Picture: Paul Lawrie Foundation

“They’ve certainly got the bug now and Gregor is an incredibly hard worker, both in terms of his golf and also in the gym. Connor goes through phases where one minute you can’t stop him playing and the next he’s needing a break.

“I wasn’t actually sure he was going to play at The Machrie, yet he went out there at the weekend and his golf was off the charts. It was frightening. He shot 67 off the back tees, but it could easily have been 61 or 62.”

McIlroy, of course, was shooting those sort of scores at the same age. “My dad takes the mick out of me about my hair, saying I look like a young Rory,” said Connor, laughing. “I don't mind as he’s always someone you look up to and try to be like.”

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