IT may have taken longer than he wanted, but Bradley Neil is now ready to make the step up to the big league of the European Tour.
As the young Scot gears up for his first full year on the main Tour, he will have words of wisdom from Justin Rose to fall back on if the going gets tough.
The pair share the same management company, Excel, but it’s their similar experiences upon moving into the pro ranks that is of most benefit.
Neil scaled the heights in amateur golf as Scottish Boys’ Champion in 2013 and then winning the Amateur Championship in 2014.
That earned him invites to The Open, and the following year’s Masters and the US Open and he turned pro immediately after playing at Chambers Bay.
But the transition was a bumpy one as he missed the cut in 13 of his 14 events.
However, Rose knows better than anyone about the highs and lows that can bring.
He shot to prominence by finishing fourth in The Open as a 17-year-old amateur at Royal Birkdale 20 years ago, before he started with 21 straight missed cuts in the paid ranks.
So being able to turn to a player with that experience and stature has been invaluable for Bradley.
“At the end of 2015, I was on FaceTime with my manager, and Justin and his coach Sean Foley came on the line,” Neil reveals.
“I was talking to those two about what I was doing, what I needed to do and what I had to continue to do.
“Justin gave me a really good piece of advice. He said: ‘Whatever you do, don’t fall out of love with the game’.
“My thoughts were that I had done the right thing in turning pro, so those words kept me going and kept me motivated.
“I had enjoyed a great amateur career and had unbelievable support from Scottish Golf.
“Then I turned pro and the amount of support is less, and you’re not playing in Majors and European Tour events.
“It feels like you’re going back to beginners’ level.
“The game hit me hard after turning pro for a good year to 18 months. But I saw some positive changes at Q-School in 2016 and I grew in confidence.
“Now it’s fantastic to be back at a level where I am comfortable. I feel my game is now a lot more suited to being out here and this is where I want to work.”
Neil secured his full status after finishing 15th on last year’s Challenge Tour. He claimed the last automatic spot on the final green at the final event of the season in Oman.
The Blairgowrie man aims to use that memory as he begins his year at this week’s South African Open.
“Holing that three-foot putt on 18 was a lot tougher after missing one the same length on the previous hole,” he recalls.
“But I used all my experience to play the last hole and hole that putt. Now I can use that memory when I have a similar putt to avoid missing the cut, winning a tournament or keeping my card.
“The difference between getting on Tour and not is incredible. I started that final day in Oman outside the top 15 and after nine or 10 holes, I was projected inside.
“So I was very proud of how I handled myself in those last few holes to do it.”
Neil isn’t the only Scottish newcomer on the European Tour this season, as Connor Syme came through Q-School to secure his card.
The pair’s paths have been crossing since they were teenagers and Bradley hopes a healthy competition between the pair can spur them both on to great things.
“I’ve known Connor since I was 15, and it was good to see him get through onto the Tour,” he says.
“It will be very tough to keep his card, given the schedule he’ll have. But if anyone can do it, it’s Connor.
“It’ll be good to travel and work with each other and have that camaraderie in practice.
“We’ve seen that over on the PGA Tour with Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.
“They have grown up with each other and are now challenging each other to do better every week, with great results.”