Sandy Scott and Bradley Neil take first step in bid to play in 150th Open

Sandy Scott took a confident first step towards teeing up in the 150th Open at St Andrews and was joined in feeling he can use that milestone occasion to celebrate coming out of a long dark tunnel by Bradley Neil.

Nairn amateur Scott progressed to next week’s Final Qualifying in style by carding a best-of-the-day five-under 65 at Panmure in one of 15 Regional Qualifiers taking place around the UK and Ireland.

On a day when the earlier starters at the Angus venue enjoyed an easier test than those out in the afternoon, former Amateur champion Neil was also among a group of 10 players to clear the first hurdle in an exciting battle to secure spots in the season’s final major next month.

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Having lost out in a play-off in his bid to make a second US Open appearance at Brookline last week, Scott was delighted to come through his latest qualifying test with flying colours as he finished a shot ahead of fellow amateur Thomas Finnegan from County Sligo.

Sandy Scott, pictured taking part in last week's R&A Amateur Championship in Lancashire, won The Open Regional Qualifier at Panmure. Picture: Matthew Lewis/R&A/R&A via Getty Images.

“It was good,” said Scott, a former Walker Cup player, of his day’s work. “It was tough as it got a little bit breezier on the back nine. There are some good birdie chances on the first few holes and I took advantage of them before also making a few birdies coming in, including a nice 25-footer at the last.”

At a time when he was inside the top 10 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, Scott was all set to turn professional when the Covid pandemic hit then suffered a wrist injury that left him fearing about his career.

“It was rough time for about a year and a half with the injury,” he admitted. “I still have to manage what I’m doing and be aware of it. As long as I do that, I can play and that’s the most important thing.

"Though I didn’t get into the US Open, the way I played in the qualifier was kind of the start of some good golf for me and ever since then it’s been getting better.”

Bradley Neil, pictured during the recent Emporda Challenge in Spain, progressed to next week's Final Qualifying. Picture: Alex Caparros/Getty Images.

Neil, who played in the 2014 Open at Royal Liverpool on the back of his Amateur Championship win that year, eagled the 14th then birdied the 17th as he shot a 67 to share fourth spot with amateur duo John Paterson (New Club St Andrews) and Alan Berrington (Drumoig).

“It’s actually the first year I haven’t got straight into Final Qualifying,” said Neil. “You’ve no idea what you’re aiming for, how many qualify. You’ve just got to keep going at it.”

The 26-year-old is starting to rediscover his form after getting into a rut since losing his seat at the top table in European golf after just one season.

“I don’t think the game has ever been away, it’s just the mental struggles have been crazy,” said Neil, who came through the amateur ranks with Bob MacIntyre, Grant Forrest, Ewen Ferguson, Calum Hill and Connor Syme.

“You see your peers do so well and you feel you should be there with them. But different people just take their own time, I suppose. I was there and I don’t think I was ready when I was there.

“You’ve really got to lean on the people around you. I’ve got an incredible missus in Roseanna Bailey. I’ve been with for ten years and her family, let alone mine, are outstanding.”

In a seven-man play-off for the final five spots, former European Tour player Peter Whiteford kept his hopes alive along with fellow Scots John Henry, Liam Duncan and Ben Murray, as well as Bolivian James Arandia.

In-form Graeme Robertson led a posse of Scots in progressing at Goswick while PGA EuroPro Tour player Stuart McLaren also passed his test at Minchinhampton.

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