The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition)

Aviemore first up as Neil prepares to join paid ranks

- STEVE SCOTT golf correspond­ent Twitter: @C_SScott

Blairgowri­e’s teenage golf star Bradley Neil will today officially announce he is turning profession­al and make his debut in the paid ranks this week at Aviemore.

The 19-year-old, who won the Amateur Championsh­ip at Royal Portrush a year ago, will confirm he has signed with Excel Sports – the agency run by Tiger Woods’ long-time manager Mark Steinberg which handles both the former world No 1 and Justin Rose’s affairs – today after completing the last of his prestigiou­s invitation­s for winning the Amateur, at the US Open over the weekend.

Neil missed the cut with rounds of 76 and 73, but indicated after his second round that his experience playing the Open, the Masters at Augusta and the US Open – as well as a number of other tour events – has been ideal preparatio­n for playing profession­ally for the rest of the year.

His first event will be the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge at the MacDonald Hotels’ Spey Valley course at Aviemore this week, the Scottish stop on the Challenge Tour, the satellite circuit which provides a route into the European Tour proper.

Bradley’s status as an Amateur champion is likely to allow him a number of invitation­s to tournament­s on both the main European Tour and the Challenge Tour, which could amount to virtually a full-time playing schedule for the rest of the year.

Signing with such a high-profile management company – an agreement long rumoured since Neil played at Augusta – will also help pave his way into top-order events at least until the end of this year.

His aim will be to gain enough prize money from those events to secure his playing rights on the European Tour, although only a handful of players have managed to do that turning profession­al midway through a season – notably Rory McIlroy, Matteo Manassero and Tom Lewis in recent years.

It does mean that Bradley will not play for Scotland in the European Team Championsh­ips next month, nor for Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup matches at Royal Lytham and St Annes in September.

Bradley’s rise to the pro ranks has been swift, coming just two and a half years after he won the Scottish Boys’ title at Monifieth.

A succession of strong performanc­es including a highprofil­e success in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championsh­ip when partnering US pro Peter Uihlein as a late replacemen­t followed, culiminati­ng in his victory in the Amateur at Portrush a year ago this month.

 ?? Picture: Getty Images. ?? Bradley Neil during Thursday’s first round at the US Open at Chambers Bay, his final event as an amateur.
Picture: Getty Images. Bradley Neil during Thursday’s first round at the US Open at Chambers Bay, his final event as an amateur.

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