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Scotland's Neil Might Turn Pro Prior To Walker Cup

by Colin Callander - March 23, 2015

Bradley Neil has confirmed he is considering turning professional ahead of this year’s Walker Cup.

The 19-year-old reigning British Amateur champion from Blairgowrie, currently preparing to compete against the professionals at The Masters, the Memorial Tournament and the US Open, has admitted to Perthshire Advertiser sports editor Gordon Bannerman that he might switch codes straight after the last of those events rather than make himself available for the GB&I team to play against the Americans at Royal Lytham & St Annes in September.

“The plan is to focus and prepare to play as if I’m going to turn pro after the US Open,” he explained. “There is built-in flexibility, but this way means I won’t be overwhelmed if the opportunity does arise. I want to be ready for that possibility rather than being caught off guard.

“I do have two dates in mind, the US Open and the Walker Cup. I can prepare mentally for both.

“If I don’t think about it and it does happen after the US Open I could be left wondering what’s going on. Nothing is guaranteed. I know that. But there may be advantages in turning pro early.”

Neil is concerned that if he waits until after the Walker Cup he could be battling for tour invites against several other top amateurs electing to turn professional at the same time.

“Management companies will be trying to use the Walker Cup platform to push their players,” he said. “There could be more doors opening after (the US Open at) Chambers Bay, rather than waiting for the Walker Cup.

“It’s all going to come down to whether I feel ready,” he added. “I have always believed I will be able to make things happen for me, regardless of when I turn pro.”

Neil confirmed his position the same week he won the Perth and Kinross Sports Person of the Year Award for 2015.

Jack Hume will be hoping to impress the Walker Cup selectors when he defends his title at next month’s West of Ireland Open Amateur Championship at Co. Sligo.

The Naas player defeated former Irish amateur champion Robbie Cannon in last year’s final and is bidding to become the first back-to-back winner since Rory McIlroy in 2005-2006. Other past champions include Pádraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Shane Lowry. McIlroy was the youngest winner when he claimed the first of his two titles.

Hume’s hopes of a repeat victory have been boosted by the fact that both he and current Irish amateur champion John-Ross Galbraith have been granted byes into the match-play stages. Both are representing their country the week before in the Southern Cross Invitational in Argentina.

However, Gavin Moynihan and Gary Hurley, their teammates in Argentina, have declined similar invites. Moynihan has elected to take a break after the two-week trip to South America while Hurley has committed to playing in the R&A Foundation’s Scholars tournament in St Andrews, which he won in 2013.

“It was nice to get my first major championship win (last year) and hopefully I can go back and defend it this year,” Hume said.

“I’m just looking forward to getting back there really. I’ve always liked the course. It’s a nice place as long as the weather doesn’t get too bad. There’s a lot of nice holes. It’s well designed. All the members are very nice. They love their golf so it’s a good place to be.”

Hume and Galbraith also have been selected to represent their country in the forthcoming Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham & St Annes, a course on which Hume finished runner-up to Albert Eckhardt in the same competition two years ago and which will host the Walker Cup for a second time in September.

They will be joined at the famous Lancashire venue by the likes of Moynihan, Hurley, Cormac Sharvin and Robin Dawson but Paul Dunne, Chris Selfridge and Paul McBride all miss out because of college commitments in the United States.

“The Walker Cup selectors will be there in force,” said the new Irish captain, Tony Goode.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll get a good result. I feel the course might suit Jack. He’s very straight, if not very long. That’s the kind of player you want around Lytham. You must be straight off the tee because there are so many bunkers on that course.”

Ashton Turner completed a unique double when he won the Darwin Salver at Rye.

The 18-year-old England “A” squad member from Kenwick Park in Lincolnshire became the first player to win the South of England Youths’ title twice when he put together rounds of 66, 68, 71 and 66 for a 1-under-par total of 271 and a four-shot victory ahead of former Carris Trophy winner Ben Amor from Marlborough.

Amor carded rounds of 68, 75, 67 and 65 to finish on 275 while Oliver Farrell (Evesham) also closed with a 3-under-par 65 to claim third place two shots ahead of David Ramsay (Mold) and Freddie Price (Royal Blackheath). Price earlier had carded a 5-under 63 in the second round, equalling Tom Lewis’ course record, set in Open Championship qualifying in 2011.

Defending champion Jamie Dick (Forest Hills) finished well down the field in a share of 25th place on 290.

“I’m honoured to be the first player to win it twice,” said Turner, who celebrates his 19th birthday this week. “Hopefully, it will be three next year.

“This win means a great deal to me. It’s a really nice course and it gets the season off to a good start.”

Turner’s first victory in the Darwin Salver came back in 2013 when he carded a closing round of 64 and then beat Royal North Devon’s Jimmy Mullen in a play-off.

England’s Tomasz Anderson has just completed a sixth victory on the US collegiate circuit.

The 22-year-old Jacksonville State University student, who is in the initial GB&I squad for this year’s Walker Cup, carded rounds of 69, 67 and 69 to finish 11-under par and four shots clear of his nearest rival at the Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate in Tennessee. His efforts also helped Jacksonville State win the team event.

Anderson is one of three Englishmen to have recorded recent wins on the US collegiate circuit. Elsewhere, 21-year-old Tom Rowland, from Prudhoe, a student at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, won the Davidson College Invitational in North Carolina by two shots while JJ Grey, from Hever Castle, was 4 under when he claimed a single-shot victory in the Southern Collegiate tournament in Georgia. The 22-year-old Kent player is a student at Georgia State University.

Haydn McCullen has become the latest young British amateur to elect to turn professional.

The 18-year-old from Manchester, who won the 2014 Peter McEvoy Trophy and played for GB&I in the Jacques Leglise Trophy, signed for the ISM sports management stable late last year and has now decided to switch codes and play on the Ecco and Mena Tours ahead of going to the European Tour Qualifying School later this year.

“I’m really looking forward to getting out there and playing. It’s definitely going to be a step up from what I’m used to but I feel I’m ready for it,” he said. “I’ve been working towards this for a long time and it’s very exciting.”

In 2013, McCullen became the first player to win both the Lancashire men’s and boys’ titles.

Craig Howie defied strong wind and driving rain to win last week’s British Universities/Scottish Sport Student Tour event at Dundonald Links in Ayrshire.

The Stirling University student and former Scottish Boys champion opened with a 4-over-par 76 and then carded an excellent 70 to finish six shots ahead of Edinburgh University’s Michael Howard in an event curtailed to 36 holes due to the adverse weather conditions.

Howard carded rounds of 78 and 74 to claim second place on 152 while Edge Hill’s James Rooney was third after recording rounds of 81 and 73. Strathclyde University’s Craig Chalmers and Chris MacLean from Stirling shared fourth place on 155.

The concurrent women’s event was won by St Andrews University’s Ailsa Summers, who carded rounds of 84 and 77 to finish two shots ahead of teammate Miranda Brain. Amy Chambers from St Andrews claimed a share of third place after closing with a ine 77 to tie Nastja Banovec from Abertay Dundee University.

Aboyne’s Shannon McWilliam carded a 1-over-par 72 to claim a comprehensive four-shot victory at the SLGA Champion of Champions event at Glasgow Gailes.

McWilliam, the youngest competitor in the field at 15, birdied the last to finish four shots in front of Stirling University student Hannah McCook and five ahead of Broomieknowe’s Kate McIntosh and Tara Mactaggert, another Stirling student from Minto.

McWilliam, who won last year’s Paul Lawrie Foundation Scottish Schoolgirls’ Championship and also claimed both the Aberdeenshire women’s and girls’ titles, was delighted to start the season with another victory.

“I struck the ball well all the way round but found the greens pretty tough because they’d been cored and top-dressed,” she said. “I’m delighted with my win. It’s a fantastic way to start my season and my mum said it’s the best Mother’s Day present she’s ever had.”

France’s Alexandre Daydou produced some sparkling golf to win the Italian Men’s International Amateur Championship at Circolo Golf Golf Is Molas.

The 19-year-old reigning French Boys’ champion from Cannes Mougin carded rounds of 71, 70, 69 and 71 to claim a four-shot victory over Italy’s Michele Ortolani on 7-under-par 281.

England’s Jack Singh-Brar headed the GB&I challenge with rounds of 70, 70, 78 and 72, which earned him a share of 12th place on 2-over-par 290. Welshman Tim Harry closed with a 74 to finish in a tie for 41st place on 297 while England’s Sam Whitaker and Ireland’s Kevin LeBlanc were three shots further back in the group in 48th place on 300.

The Nations Cup held in conjunction with the first three rounds of the individual competition was won by the Finnish trio of Kristian Kulokorpi, Miki Kuronen and Lauri Ruuska, who finished on 420 and 10 shots ahead of an Italy 2 team comprising Stefano Mazzoli, Luca Cianchetti and Federico Zuckerman.

Austria completed an impressive double at the rain-shortened Italian Women’s International Championship at Garlenda Golf Club with former English U-13 champion Emma Spitz carding rounds of 72, 71 and 69 to finish two shots ahead of compatriot Sarah Schober. Italian duo Ludovica Farina and Barbara Borin shared third place on 218.

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