Saturday, April 06, 2013


        FEELING CHAMPION ... Bradley Neil with the trophy. Image by Kenny Smith

By ED HODGE, PR and Media Executive
Blairgowrie’s Bradley Neil has won the battle of the top seeds to claim the 2013 Scottish Boys Championship, supported by TaylorMade-adidas-Golf, at Monifieth Golf Links.
The 17-year-old sealed a 4 and 2 win over No 1 seed Ewan Scott from St Andrews in the 36-hole final in Angus after a superb day’s golf played out in wonderfully sunny and calm conditions.
After the players were deadlocked at lunch, Neil took control in the afternoon thanks to some brilliant iron play – including a holed 8-iron approach at the par-4 sixth hole – to consign Scott to back-to-back final defeats in the prestigious Under-18 event. The Perthshire player was five-under-par for their 16 holes after lunch, four shots better than Scott.
In doing so, Neil avenged his quarter-final loss to Scott 12 months ago and becomes the first player from the Blairgowrie club to take the Scottish Boys matchplay title. He also joins a winners' list that includes Andrew Coltart, Steven O'Hara and Scott Henry.
A jubilant Neil, who together with Scott won gold medals for Team GB at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival earlier this year, said: “To pull off a shot like I did at the 6th at any time is fantastic, but to do it in the Scottish Boys final was unthinkable. It was definitely a turning point, and I holed a fantastic putt at the previous hole as well to go one up. I think that putt was just as crucial as holing the second shot.
“It gave me great confidence and from there I never really looked back. I started to pull shots off at the right time, which is what I’ve worked hard to do. It shows I have the determination and motivation to succeed. I was determined to keep my foot on the gas, especially against a player like Ewan.”
Scott, 17, like Neil a graduate of the Scottish Golf Academy and both members of the SGU Boys Performance Squad, was aiming to become the first golfer from St Andrews to win the Boys' title since Lachlan Carver in 1960.
After losing to Peebles’ Craig Howie last year, he fell just short again, but could still draw the positives. After all, he has already reached the South African Amateur semi-finals and won his category at the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final in China this year, so Monifieth represents more success.
“Bradley hit some awesome iron shots,” said Ewan, coached by Steve North. “You can call it a fluke on the 6th, but it was a quality golf shot. Once it hit the green it was nowhere else, so fair play to him.
“It’s more world ranking points and a good start to the Boys’ Order of Merit for me, so it’s still a good week.”
Neil, who is coached by Kevin Hale, made a fast start, clipping a wedge into 10 feet at the opening hole and making birdie. But his errant approach to the next bounced out of bounds and it was quickly back to all square.
Scott’s bogey at the 4th allowed his opponent to lead again, before Neil failed to make par from the greenside bunker on the 5th. The pair traded birdies at the 6th and 7th and also both birdied the 8th, before it stayed all square through 10 holes as the pair fought an engrossing, tight match.
Scott’s bogey at the 11th again gave Neil the lead and the Perthshire player’s birdie at the 13th saw him take a two-hole lead for the first time.
 But Scott has shown great resolve this week and again dug deep to quickly fight back with a birdie 2 at the short 14th. He remained one down at the 18th, where he was bunkered in two, with Neil already well-placed for a birdie 4.
Before the SGU TV cameras, in association with We Film Golf, Scott splashed out and the ball dropped in the hole for a brilliant eagle to square the match at lunch.
“It was a little bonus for me and I guess it might have been nice to have kept going rather than stop,” said Scott.
In perfect conditions for golf, both players probably would have been disappointed to ‘only’ shoot two-under-par 69’s in the morning, but it was still a superb match to watch nonetheless.
The afternoon session began cautiously, but came to life in remarkable fashion at the short par-3 23rd. Neil rolled home a birdie 2 from 15 feet, before taking the match by the scruff of the neck at the next. From 129 yards, his brilliant, curling 8-iron approach shot found the green and rolled into the hole for a superb eagle 2.  
Scott reduced arrears after driving the green at the short par-4 26th, with Neil unable to match his birdie. However, a birdie at the 28th restored Neil’s two-hole advantage. Scott had chances to come back but was unable to take them, before he conceded Neil’s birdie at the 34th.
 “We’ve got such a great friendship myself and Ewan and the way we played today was very nice,” added Bradley.
 Monifieth, which staged the Scottish boys’ match-play championship for the first time, was in first-class condition and the weather on the final day proved a fitting stage for the showpiece.



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