Bradley Neil holds nerve to secure European Tour card
The 21-year-old from Blairgowrie was three spots outside the all-important top 15 on the Challenge Tour money-list heading into the last round of the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman.
But, thanks to a superb closing three-under 69 for an eight-under 280 total, Neil’s excellent effort over the course of the season got the reward it deserved.
In ending up joint-ninth in Muscat, he finished the year in 15th position in the Road to Oman, pipping German Sebastian Hiesele for the final card up for grabs by around £2600.
“I thought I was inside when I saw a leaderboard at the 15th but you just never know until it’s done and dusted,” said a delighted Neil, who has earned the step up in just his second full season in the paid ranks.
“It is tough to focus on your game in a position like that and you have to be strong mentally.
“It’s been a long, long season. It was horrible coming in here in 16th position.”
Under the most pressure he’s ever faced in his career, Neil was out in three-under 33 on the final circuit Al Mouj Golf before starting for home with a fourth birdie of the day.
The 2014 Amateur champion was still four-under for the round before dropping a shot at the 17th, leaving him right on the bubble as he played the last.
It was job done, though, as Neil got up and down, heaving a huge sigh of relief as his knee-knocking par putt dropped into the hole.
“After I bogeyed 17th, I didn’t know where I was standing as I came up the 18th. I just didn’t have a clue what was going on,” he admitted.
“I thought my shot into the 18th was okay then I saw my dad’s head go down and I was like, ‘oh no, please don’t say it’s gone long’.
“Fortunately, it wasn’t in a bunker and it was a relatively easy chip but I left myself with enough to get worried about so I was delighted to see the putt drop.”
Asked how he felt playing the biggest back nine of his career, he insisted: “I was actually pretty excited. I thought it was in my hands now. I wasn’t level par at that point and didn’t have to go and shoot an amazing back nine.
“I could just keep pressing on as I was playing fantastic golf and it was about trying to keep doing it over the next eight holes.
“Today was a lot tougher. The pins were tucked away and wind more a factor than first three days.”
Grant Forrest, the other Scot in the field, finished 41st after he signed off with a 76 for an eight-over total.
But he can be pleased with his first full season as a professional and will have high hopes of following in Neil’s footsteps in a year’s time.
Forrest has a chance of achieving that feat sooner, in fact, as he now turns his attention to the final stage of the Qualifying School in Spain.
Frenchman Clement Sordet held off fast-finishing Swede Marcus Kinhult to win the Grand Final with a 15-under-par total.
That secured second spot for Sordet behind Finn Tapio Pulkkanen in the Road to Oman while other card winners included American Chase Koepka, the younger brother of US Open champion Brooks.
Also among the graduates was Spaniard Scott Fernandez, whose great granny came from Glasgow and regards himself as “a quarter Scottish”.