BRADLEY Neil, who makes his Masters debut today, could be set to become a stablemate of both Tiger Woods and Justin Rose when he turns professional later this year.
The 19-year-old from Blairgowrie has been holding talks this week with a management company, which The Scotsman understands is Excel Sports
I want to try to add to the CV before I turn professional.Bradley Neil
It represents a whole host of top sportsmen and sportswomen, with Woods and Rose spearheading a stellar golf clientele that also includes rising stars such as American Patrick Cantlay and big-hitting Belgian Thomas Pieters.
Ryder Cup duo Matt Kuchar and Nicolas Colsaerts are also represented by Excel Sports, as is Cheyenne Woods, Tiger’s niece.
“I have verbally committed to a management company but nothing is signed yet,” said Neil, who, following a change to the Amateur Status rules within the past few years, can put pen to paper while still in the non-paid ranks.
“I did have hopes of getting that done this week. But I’m having a few things checked out before I sign anything. They just haven’t got back to me.
“It is exciting, definitely. I have been close with the company for a while and I get on well with the guy who is going to manage me. I have spent a lot of time with him this week. It’s great that it is all happening now, taking the steps towards turning pro. It is getting closer.”
The Amateur champion is likely to make the switch either straight after the US Open at Chambers Bay in June or following the Walker Cup at Royal Lytham in September.
“I’m not going to miss out on the US Open,” he insisted, even though that clashes with the Amateur Championship and, therefore, means he will not be able to defend his title at Carnoustie.
Having secured an invitation to The Memorial, a PGA Tour event, as preparation for the US Open, he will also miss out on this year’s St Andrews Links Trophy, where he lost a play-off to compatriot, Grant Forrest, last year.
“I want to try to add to the CV before I turn professional and there’s still the Lytham Trophy and some other big amateur events,” he said. “The British Amateur and St Andrews Links are two of the biggest amateur events in the game. I won one and was close to winning the other last year. It would have been nice to have another shot at them both, but I can’t be too greedy. I have to think long-term.
“They are great courses but not exactly Tour courses. I am getting a better opportunity to learn about Tour life when I am travelling and playing these tougher courses.”
In today’s opening round, Neil will have Sandy Lyle, the 1988 winner, for company along with another debutant, Korean Sueng Yul-Noh. “I know he is looking forward to playing with me,” said Lyle when asked about Neil. “It will interesting to see what Scottish youngsters are coming up.”
The two-times major winner, of course, can’t help Neil in the heat of battle, but he will be trying to make him feel comfortable, something that other big names were either unable or willing to do.
“Some players might be a bit overpowering,” said Lyle. “Greg Norman a few years ago may have given him the stare and made him feel uncomfortable. Ray Floyd could also be a bit overpowering. He had that stare and steely eyes and you’d say: ‘Ooh let’s back off’. Everybody is going to feel nervous, no one will be Mr Cool out there. We’ll just have some fun. The challenge of the course will keep the mind going all the time.”
As was the case at last year’s Open, one of Neil’s practice rounds here was in the company of Stephen Gallacher. “Bradley is a good player and hits it lovely,” said Scotland’s top-ranked golfer. “He’s just got to go out and enjoy it. There’s no pressure on him whatsoever. He’s just got to learn from it and, hopefully, he’ll be able to use this experience when he comes back as a professional one day.”
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