Scotland's Neil captures British Amateur title
PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – Scotland waited 10 years for another of its sons to win the British Amateur despite seeing four Scots reach the final since 2004, including two in the previous three years.
Eighteen-year-old Bradley Neil finally delivered Scottish success 10 years after Stuart Wilson won the 2004 Championship at St. Andrews, winning the 119th British Amateur with a 2-and-1 victory over South Africa’s Zander Lombard at Royal Portrush Golf Club on Sunday.
The amateur from Blairgowrie Golf Club took the title despite looking the inferior player in the morning session of the 36-hole final. Neil only hit eight greens compared to the 16 that Lombard found. Yet the doughty little Scot went into lunch all square.
Time and again, Neil got up and down to save par and halve holes with the 19-year-old South African. Meanwhile, Lombard spurned enough chances to have taken a commanding lead into the afternoon session.
The man from Pretoria, ranked 59th in the world, had at least six birdie chances in the morning session that he failed to convert.
The afternoon round began the way the morning round ended, with the South African failing to take advantage of birdie chances. Lombard watched with dismay as a 15-footer at No. 1 just curled away from the hole. He missed another birdie putt at the par-3 third hole, when his 18-foot attempt just shaved the left edge of the hole.
Neil was much more composed at the beginning of the afternoon session. That was obvious when he hit seven of the first nine greens.
Both players returned 1-under 34s over the outward nine of the afternoon round, but Lombard was the first to crack. He lost four of the first five holes from the 10th to give Neil an unassailable lead of 4 up with four holes of regulation remaining.
The Scottish player talked about this Amateur Championship having his name on it. That wasn’t just bravado. Neil arrived in Portrush as the 38th-ranked player in the world after seven top-10 finishes, including three seconds and two thirds. His most recent was a playoff loss in the St. Andrews Links Trophy.
“I never thought I could have this good a season,” Neil said on the eve of the final. “All the events I’ve played in and all the work I’ve done has built up to this event, to this moment, this final. I feel this week is my time.”
That’s scarily omniscient.
Neil now takes his place in next month’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, and next year’s Masters and U.S. Open. Those are the rewards that go with winning the biggest amateur tournament in the British Isles.
Not bad for a guy few people outside Scotland had heard of before this week.