Robert MacIntyre takes determined first steps in European career

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Robert MacIntyre takes determined first steps in European career

Euro Tour

Robert MacIntyre takes determined first steps in European career

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Robert MacIntyre is one of many players in this week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa hoping for an early Christmas present. The difference between the Scot and his peers: His needs are greater than most.

The left-hander wasn’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. He’s earned his place amongst Europe’s elite through hard work, determination and a huge amount of grit.

The 22-year-old opened in 2-under 70 at Leopard Creek Country Club in Malelane, South Africa, to lie in joint 13th place, four shots behind leader Oliver Bekker of South Africa. It’s a continuation of the form MacIntyre showed last week in finishing T-15 in the South African Open.

MacIntyre needs a lot of top-15s in 2019 if he’s to realize his dream of placing inside the top 110 on the European money list to keep his card for 2020. That’s his main achievement in his rookie campaign. However, the fact he even has a presence among Europe’s elite is a good news story in itself.

Glencruitten Golf Club in Oban on the West Coast of Scotland isn’t the place anyone would normally look for a future European Tour pro. It’s not a typical country club, and this middle-class to working-class golf club is not the place to be on a wet winters’ day with rain lashing in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Yet MacIntyre honed skills at Glencruitten that have taken him to the final of the 2016 British Amateur Championship, the Walker Cup and a card on the 2018/19 European Tour thanks to his 12th-place on this year’s European Challenge Tour.

MacIntyre had five top-10 finishes on Europe’s junior circuit in 2018, including two seconds. And so far so good in his first three full events on the main tour, with two made cuts. Last week’s South African Open performance earned him a third-round pairing with Ernie Els. He matched the four-time major winner’s 68.

The Scot confounded the experts two years ago by reaching the final of the British Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl. Scottish Golf Union selectors were so convinced he wouldn’t go far in the tournament, they left him off Scotland’s six-man team for the European Championships.

“It gave me that wee bit of ‘I’m going to show you,’ ” he said. “It gave me that wee bit of incentive.”

MacIntyre spent a brief spell at McNeese State before returning to Scotland due to homesickness.

“The lifestyle is completely different,” he said of college in the U.S. “You can’t get two more opposites than a small town in Oban to the big state of Louisiana.”

He reached the world top 50 among amateurs while in college, so the experience paid off. Maybe that’s why he was one of the few Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup players to excel in a 19-7 loss in 2017 at Los Angeles Country Club. The Scot earned one and a half points out of three. He went undefeated against current PGA Tour rookie Cameron Champ, winning 6-and-4 in Saturday’s singles, then taking a half point off Champ on Sunday.

Champ’s prodigious tee shots didn’t bother Macintyre. Just the opposite. Those two contests were further proof MacIntyre seems to play his best when up against the odds, but then the Scot seems to have been rowing against the stream his entire life.

Don’t be surprised if MacIntyre does well on this year’s European Tour through sheer determination alone. That intangible has taken him to heights few would have predicted when he first picked up a golf club.

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