Bradley Neil set for first Augusta appearanceApril, 2015
When Bradley Neil won the Amateur Championship last year, he received one of the most coveted invitations in golf
Bradley Neil isn’t your typical Scottish teenager.
Sure, he still enjoys beating his brother on the PlayStation and his favourite takeaway is a smoked sausage supper with curry sauce. But the residents of Blairgowrie aren’t seeing as much of the 19-year old as they used to.
For weeks on end, Bradley has started disappearing.
Then, when he won the Amateur Championship last year, Neil received one of the most coveted invitations in golf: a place at the Masters.
In January he made the trip to Augusta National, to get a first glimpse of the legendary course and said: “It was incredible, I still can’t find the right word to describe how wonderful it was.”
Neil will need to overcome that sense of awe fast if he is to justify his invitation. Otherwise he may suffer a repeat of last year, when the experience of playing in the Open proved too much for the youngster.
In his first appearance at a Major, a score of 11 over was a sad reflection of how the grand occasion and large crowds can affect a player, if they aren’t adequately prepared.
“I just don’t think it was meant to be that week,” explained Neil, who only found out he was going to the Open two weeks before the event. “Out on the course, when I was hitting poor shots, it was even harder because I knew how well I played in the weeks before.”
Hoylake gave Neil a sound beating, but when he heads to Augusta, the Scot hopes to have learned his lesson. He’ll be the youngest player at the competition, but he won’t be completely unprepared.
“Hopefully I will have learned a lot from the Open and I will be a few months older and wiser,” Neil said.
Having toured around Europe since the age of 15, thanks to support from the Scottish Golf Union, Neil is ranked 10th in the world among amateur players, and since he started playing aged just three, he’s got used to winning.
But it took a while after securing the Amateur Championship last June for his achievement to sink in.
“It was a few days of seeing the trophy everyday and realising that I was the amateur champion, before I realised I was going to the Masters,” he said. “Then I had to come to terms with the fact I got there because my game is good enough.”
With plans to turn professional later this year, the Masters will be an opportunity for Neil to announce himself to the world, albeit at the second time of asking.
“It will probably be very nerve-wracking, the first tee shot, but I get nervous every time I hit the first tee shot of a tournament,” he said. “If you are a name that the crowds haven’t heard of, it’s good to hit a good shot and show them that you belong there. I just need to make sure I deal with it the same as I do any time – be prepared for whatever shot I hit and walk on from there.”
Neil will have to get used to playing alongside his boyhood heroes" While the course has the potential to get on top of Neil, he also has to be careful not to get overawed by his competition. If he is to make his home on the professional tour, Neil will have to get used to playing alongside his boyhood heroes.
At the Open, he found himself sharing the chipping green with his boyhood idol, Tiger Woods.
“As much as I wanted to speak to him and ask him so many questions, I knew that I couldn’t because he was there to prepare, as I was. I was watching him a lot and I still felt like a spectator, I just had a better seat.
“Stuff like that is why I want to get on the main stage, so I can be around amazing players.
“If I am in the same field as players like that, I must be doing something right.”
It’s a life that he has only gotten a taste of, but one that Neil is prepared to embrace. It will mean more and more time away from his friends and family, but this time, he’ll get to take them along for the ride.
He’s foregoing the Crow’s Nest accommodation reserved for amateurs in favour of staying with his family, who are making the journey with him.
“This is talent that I have been given and worked hard for,” he said. “I want to share that week with the people that helped me get there.”
Back in Blairgowrie, they will be cheering on one of their own, a golfer who is most definitely not your typical teenager.
THE OTHER AUGUSTA AMATEURS
Gunn Yang 21, Korea, US Amateur Champion
Corey Conners 23, Canada, US Amateur runner-up
Antonio Murdaca 19, Australia, Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion
Byron Meth 22, USA, US Amateur Public Links Champion
Scott Harvey 36, USA, US Mid-Amateur Champion
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