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Neil: Bunkers are child's play next to windmills and clowns

One week, Bradley Neil was playing in the Open Championship.

Bradley Neil marches on after beating Joseph Bryce. Picture:  Kenny Smith
Bradley Neil marches on after beating Joseph Bryce. Picture: Kenny Smith

The next he was trying to dunt a small, dimpled ball through a clown's mouth and past the birling sails of a miniature windmill. Yes, golf can be a crazy old game. "We went on holiday just after the Open and I didn't play any golf, just recharged the batteries," reflected Neil. "But we did play crazy golf . . . and I lost. I came third out of seven of us. I lost to my girlfriend's parents. Her mum is a bit of a crazy golf wizard."

It was back to the serious stuff for Neil yesterday at pristine, sun-soaked Downfield in Dundee. Having won the Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush last month, the 18-year-old's bid for a double whammy of matchplay titles got off to a purposeful start as he swept to a 5 and 4 win over Ellis Hart of Dullatur in the first round of the Fairstone Scottish Amateur Championship. As the No.1 seed, Blairgowrie teenager Neil is there to be shot down but he was quick on the draw in his duel with Hart and a birdie on the first set him on the way. He was four up through seven and always in command.

"It's only the second time I've played in the Scottish Amateur Championship so it is a little weird to be top seed," added Neil, who will now play Bathgate's 16-year-old cham­pionship debutant Joseph Bryce. "I know I'm the Amateur champion but you look at the other guys in the field and what they have won and you realise what a lot of good players there are. It's tough coming from the Open, one of the biggest sports stages in the world, but this is the top amateur event in Scotland and you want to do as well as you can."

Ewen Ferguson has been doing pretty well for himself over the last 12 months and has enjoyed the kind of medal haul that would go down a whooping, hollering storm at the Glasgow Games.

Last summer, the Bearsden youngster won the British Boys' Championship and followed that up with Scotish Boys' Championship success in April. Last week, he won the ­Scottish Boys' Strokeplay at Cruden Bay to become the first player to hold those three crowns at the same time. If he ends up adding a fourth major title to his collection come the end of this week, they'll need to bolt an extension on to the quaking mantelpiece in the Ferguson household.

Five up through 10 holes against Rob Paterson of Kilspindie, Ferguson was made to fight for his 2 and 1 win by a spirited opponent who battled away and kept the tie going to the 17th. "I don't think I've lost in matchplay since the South Africa Test match in the spring," noted Ferguson, whose tough side of the draw includes Neil and the holder Alexander Culverwell. "I think I've got a tough draw, but if you are going to win you have to beat the best players."

Culverwell was pushed to the final green before edging out Myles Johnston of West Lothian by one hole while Barassie's Jack McDonald, last year's SGU order of merit winner, underlined his matchplay credentials with a 6 and 4 defeat of Aboyne's Sam MacNeil.

McDonald wasn't even born when Graham Lowson won the Scottish Amateur crown here at Downfield back in 1991 but there would be no waltz down memory lane yesterday for the Auchterarder veteran as he lost 2 and 1 to John Duff.

The name Hutcheon is synonomous with amateur golf in these parts and Christopher Hutcheon, nephew of Monifieth great Ian, eased into round two with a 3 and 2 win over Musselburgh's Nathan Free.

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