Neil hopes to be playing The Open at Carnoustie
Bradley Neil first played at Carnoustie when he was 12 years old and ten years on he is desperate to make his professional Open debut at the toughest links course on The Open rota.
Neil, who is now 22, former Champion of The Amateur Championship and competed in The Open Championship at Hoylake in 2014, but getting his first opportunity as a professional at Carnoustie would be something altogether more special.
Born just 30 miles up the road in Blairgowrie, he knows the course inside out, so when he says it is the hardest finish in Open golf, it is difficult to argue.
He explains: “When I played in 2014 as an amateur, it was fantastic. The Open and the Masters have been my favourite golf events to watch. It didn’t matter where it was, it was going to be my first Open.
“But if I was to qualify for my first Open as a professional in Scotland, it would add that little bit of gloss to it.
“If it happens, it happens. I believe in my ability and that many years down the line I’ll have competed in many Opens. Hopefully quite a few of them will be in Scotland. If it happens this year, then brilliant, that’s what I’m aiming for.
“I’ve been fortunate to grow up near Carnoustie and St Andrews. I’ve been around those places so much and I first played Carnoustie when I was 12 years old, so I know the course pretty well.
“Carnoustie is one of the toughest links courses without wind. Links golf is purely dependent on how windy it is, but even without the wind, Carnoustie is such a tough course. With the new amphitheatre and the stadium around the 18th green, it’s going to be make it even more amazing. It does so much for the event.
“The finish there has to be the toughest finish in Open golf. Those four holes, you cannot breathe. You have to hit the purest of golf shots just to make par, so it’s going to be an amazing week.”
Neil knows better than most just how demanding the course at Carnoustie can be and expects plenty of surprises along the way come July.
Each of the last three editions of The Open played over the Angus links have finished with play-offs, with Paul Lawrie’s win in 1999 ranking as one of the most iconic Major finishes in recent history.
Neil added: “It’s known worldwide as ‘Car-nasty’ because of how brutal and tough it is. There’s never been an Open at Carnoustie that hasn’t had drama.
“You go back to 1999 when Paul Lawrie won and obviously the (Jean) Van de Velde meltdown. Even when (Sergio) Garcia and (Padraig) Harrington had the play-off in 2007. The drama in regulation, when they both played 18 in the fourth round.
“The great thing about the Open, for the amateur golfer, is they love seeing birdies and eagles but they also want to see the best in the world hit shots as bad as they do. That makes them seem human.
“That will happen at Carnoustie. You will see some big numbers and some wild shots – it will be so entertaining! If I am playing, I hope I’m not on that side of it when the wind gets up.”
Having grown up watching, and now playing in The Open, Neil has been immersed in the sport almost from birth.
This year children under the age of 16 will go free in Carnoustie, an initiative that Neil believes will be hugely beneficial to golf in Scotland.
“I went to the Open many times as a kid,” said Neil, who was in Dundee, the closest city to Carnoustie, to promote the event.
“The whole kids go free thing, I’d have loved it. I’m 22 now so can’t take advantage but I think it’s fantastic.
“It’s a great way for the R&A to make the game more youthful. I’m not even the next generation anymore, it’s the teenagers and kids under the age of ten coming into the game.
“If I were playing in the event myself, it would be huge because living 30 miles away and being a local lad, I could inspire kids in the area.”
Early Bird Pricing closes at midnight on Wednesday 31 Jan. Don’t miss out on the chance to secure your place at The Open.