Bradley Neil will be hoping he can use his home advantage to rally the crowds as the Scotsman and his European team mates prepare to face the USA in the 2014 Junior Ryder Cup, beginning tomorrow (Monday) at The Blairgowrie Golf Club.
The host venue is the course upon which the 2014 Amateur Champion grew up, so it will be a proud and emotional moment for the 18 year old when he steps on to the first tee alongside Germany’s Max Schmitt to take on David Riley and Cameron Young in the opening foursomes.
While Neil he is hoping he can use that emotion to his full advantage, he is also acutely aware that he and the rest of Captain Stuart Wilson’s home team cannot let the occasion get in the way of their ultimate ambition – to claim a first victory in the event in four attempts after a long spell of American dominance.
“You can see the buzz around during the practise rounds and I just hope that continues in the tournament,” said Neil, who followed in the footsteps of the likes of José María Olazábal, Sergio Garcia and Matteo Manassero when he won the Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to create some of the buzz throughout the team. I think everyone sees the excitement and the buzz around this event but I think it’s vital that we either try and ignore that or try and use that to your advantage and not let it control your shots too much.
“You see how (Ian) Poulter and Bubba (Watson) did it two years ago, they got the noise going and the crowds up for it on the first tee and it might be a tactic I use tomorrow, we’ll wait and see. But it’s going to be, for everyone, but maybe more for me, a very nerve-wracking first tee shot at the first.
“To have played that hole so many times with no one watching, it’ll be so different just being on the tee with everyone there. Hopefully there’ll be big crowds there and it’ll be a moment I’ll remember a long time.
“I don’t think there’s an advantage for us there. The Americans are a strong team as well. We’ve got three players in the boys’ top eight in the world but their players are up there too and at the end of the day it doesn’t come down rankings or what’s on paper.
“It’s about who plays well on the day and who delivers for the team. Anyone that comes to this event, as long as they come with the right mind set and play well enough, if they can get a point on the board early on, they’ll settle down and that’s when they’ll play their best golf.
“I’m hoping that will be the case with me. I know it’s going to be a tough time getting points out there and I hope I can settle down quickly and get my first point on the board and then I’ll be able to play my best golf.
“It’s going to take a lot of determination and courage, especially courage. There are going to be a lot of low times and I think the Miracle at Medinah showed that. They had a lot of low times throughout the whole event until (Ian) Poulter and (Rory) McIlroy changed things on the second day late in the afternoon.
“There have been no easy wins in events like this and I think it’s going to be the same here. We’ll have to dig deep a number of times and when we get our good golf going we just need to keep it going and play for the team.
“Every player needs to worry about their own shots and then at the same time hit the shots for the team. That’s the most important thing about matchplay, worrying first about yourself and your own shots and then after that, the first thought is about the team.”
The Junior Ryder Cup is played in the highly-competitive spirit of The Ryder Cup itself but has long been regarded by former players as a week in which the competitors from both sides make friends for life, and Neil has been no different.
“There are no flaws in the team,” he said. “We’re all really good friends and we’ve all got on so well so quickly with each other. The whole thing about this event is making friends and I think this week I have made 11 new friends. Hopefully in a few years’ time we’ll all be Ryder Cup players and Solheim Cup players.”