Perspective is key as Grant Forrest flourishes in paid ranks
“It does put things in perspective,” admitted the 23-year-old of losing the man who introduced him to golf when the family lived in Bathgate and then proudly watched every shot he hit as Forrest first showed a glimpse of his potential when winning the Scottish Under-16s Championship at Largs in 2009 before adding the Scottish Boys Championship a few miles along the Ayrshire coast at West Kilbride the following year.
“Sometimes when I have a bad day on the course, it can feel like the end of the world, especially when you are doing it for a living and you know it’s what you want to do. Things like that, though, make you think it’s nothing more than just a crap round of golf. You just move on.”
If, in trying to do just that, Forrest is aiming to make his dad proud, then he’s doing a good job. A winning Walker Cup appearance at Royal Lytham in 2015 capped a very impressive amateur career, other highlights of which included lifting the St Andrews Links Trophy in 2014 and reaching the final of the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie the following year.
He delayed his move into the paid ranks by a year, having felt he wasn’t playing well enough around the time of that Walker Cup win to give himself the best possible chance to get the next chapter of his career off to a flying start. That decision bore all the hallmarks of an old head on young shoulders and it has been well and truly vindicated.
On his professional debut last October, Forrest made the cut in the Dunhill Links Championship before finishing just outside the top 40 in the $5 million European Tour event. He then made it to the final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School before finishing second in the MENA Tour equivalent. In his most recent outing, the Craigielaw player secured fifth spot in the Turkish Airlines Challenge and now he’s hoping he can keep up what is the most promising start by a Scot in the paid ranks for a good few years in this week’s Open de Portugal.
“I’m very happy about how my professional career has started,” said Forrest. “The Dunhill was definitely a good debut and a good boost. Then, after making it to the last stage in the Qualifying School, I went away and worked over the winter on the parts of my game that I felt I needed to improve. It is good to see that work paying off already in 2017.
“Delaying when I turned pro, having initially thought that would be after the 2015 Walker Cup, was definitely a good decision. Looking back, it was quite an easy one in the end as I was struggling a bit with my game at that time. Apart from one week at the Amateur Championship, I didn’t play that great in 2015. It couldn’t have worked out any better as I was able to use last year to get my game back to where it needed to be.”
Some useful advice from Lloyd Saltman helped in that respect. He, of course, also came through the junior ranks at Craigielaw to play in two Walker Cups and finish as the leading amateur in the 2005 Open Championship at St Andrews only to struggle since turning professional and now having almost fallen off the radar altogether.
“I have spoken to Lloyd a little bit as he’s probably a good example of that,” said Forrest in reply to being asked about how Scottish players seem to find it a struggle with the transition from amateur to professional. “I’m more focused on the guys who are doing well to see what they do that makes them successful. It’s definitely not down to pure talent, that’s for sure. Lloyd had a lot of talent, but it’s hard to put your finger on it. You can get on a bad run and lose your way a bit. It can happen very easily.
“One thing he did say to me was that he wasn’t playing great when he turned pro. He had won four events in 2007 to get into the Walker Cup team that year and felt he had to turn pro, but his game had deteriorated a bit by then.
“He wasn’t on a good run when he made that move and he did say you should really try to do it when you are playing well.”
During a spell at the University of San Diego, where he gained an accountancy degree, Forrest often found himself locking horns with Jon Rahm, the Spaniard who is now up to world No 12 after a blistering start to his professional career. Indeed, Rahm finished third behind the Scot when, helped by an astonishing 63 in the opening round, Forrest won an event at Chambers Bay the year before it staged the 2015 US Open.
“If you look at the likes of Jon, Thomas Pieters and Matthew Fitzpatrick, there’s not many guys like that kicking around,” Forrest said of when he was hoping to get the chance to compete against Rahm again at the highest level of the game. “It just makes me want to work harder and get there. Everyone is on their own path. It could take a few years, but you can get there eventually.”