It's time to add Grahams to list of talented golf-mad Scottish families after Connor and Gregor's success
It’s fair to say that I’ve come across some talented golf-mad families in my time covering this great sport, including the Bannermans, Huishs, Gallachers, Lawries and Saltmans to name just a few, with the Grahams now having been added to that list.
It was during the 2019 Scottish Amateur Championship at Crail that I first came across the family from Blairgowrie as three of them – dad Stuart and sons Gregor and Connor – all competed in Scottish Golf’s marquee men’s event that year. At that time, Gregor was just 15 and Connor, who stood little more than four feet tall back then, was only 12 and what a memorable occasion that must have been for Stuart and his wife, June. Four-and-half years on, both Gregor and Connor have blossomed into exciting talents and, boy, do the Graham family look set for a very exciting journey in the game over the next few years.
Even though he’s younger, it was Connor who had been catching the eye over the past couple of years as he won the R&A Junior Open at Monifieth in 2022 then added the Scottish Men’s Open at Meldrum House last year. Oh, and on the team front, he created history as the youngster-ever Walker Cup player representing Great Britain & Ireland in last year’s match at St Andrews before being unbeaten in helping Europe win the Junior Ryder Cup in Rome a few weeks later.
Highly regarded by Paul Lawrie through working closely with him through his ambassadorial role for the former Open champion’s junior foundation, Connor is heading for a spell at Texas Tech University later this year and it will be fascinating to see how he fares on the US college circuit.
Gregor has already spent some time in the States, having followed in the footsteps of both Andrew Coltart and Dean Robertson by heading to Midland College in Texas, and some success in his short time there looks to have contributed to his career also starting to really take off. While admittedly enjoying home advantage, it was no mean feat when he also earned a place in the record books last year by becoming the first amateur to win on the Tartan Pro Tour as he came out on top in the Blairgowrie Perthshire Masters.
Feel free to ask some of the seasoned pros who play on the circuit set up Lawrie to provide more playing opportunities for home-based players and has since become an official feeder tour for the Challenge Tour how difficult it is to come out on top in one of those events and you’ll understand why Gregor was handed an enormous confidence boost from that.That has now become very much evident because he’s just been crowned as the new South African Amateur champion after adding to a pretty remarkable Scottish success story in the GolfRSA event after Michael Stewart (2011), Brian Soutar (2012), Daniel Young (2015) and Craig Ross (2016) also landed the title in the past decade or so.
In all the instances, the players have been part of a Scottish Golf squad that has been in South Africa for what is effectively a warm weather winter training trip and hats off to Johann Rupert and the Alfred Dunhill Links Foundation for coming up with that idea in the first place and continuing to make it happen. In case you didn’t know, it is the official charity of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, with millions of pounds having been raised from that event since it was first held on Scottish soil in 2001, when the winner, of course, was the aforementioned Lawrie.
In a rare media interview, Rupert, the chairman of Richemont, Dunhill’s parent company, told this correspondent in 2020 how pleasing it had been for him personally to see Scottish players winning on South African soil, with Liam Johnston and Euan Walker having also landed title triumphs in the African Amateur Stroke-Play Championship in 2017 and 2019 respectively. “We spoke to Scottish Golf and suggested to them that in the winter months they could come out to South Africa and have great practice facilities,” he said before adding with a hearty laugh “Of course, I didn’t realise they would take on so quickly out there that they would start beating us like a drunk!”
It’s somewhat ironic, of course, that during the spell of Scottish success in South Africa, South Africans have turned the tables when coming to the UK to play in the R&A Amateur Championship, which has fallen to Jovan Rebula (2018), Aldrich Potgieter (2022) and Christo Lamprecht (2023) in recent years. Incidentally, watch out for Potgieter as he recently became the Korn Ferry Tour’s youngest-ever winner at 19 and was also one of two players to break 60 in the most recent event on the PGA Tour’s main feeder circuit.
In comparison to him, both the Grahams have some catching up to do, but, between them, Connor and Gregor have started to rack up an impressive collection of titles, showing that success does, indeed, breed success and you get the feeling they are both only really getting started as far as what they can achieve in the game.
Connor will be gutted he missed out on the South African trip due to a stress fracture in his right hand and will be out to make up for lost time when he returns to competitive action, with the possibility of the brothers fighting it out down the stretch in one of the UK’s top events at some point this season.
Add in brother Archie, a good golfer himself and a gold medallist in last year’s British Down Syndrome Swimming Championships, and June and Stuart Graham have good reason to be very proud of their boys right now.
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