GOLF, with all its infuriating quirks and absurdities, has a habit of adding years to you. “It’s been a crazy few years and it’s hard to think it’s just three years since I was junior captain at Blairgowrie,” said Bradley Neil, who was guest of honour at his home town club’s annual prize giving recently.

At just 21, Neil is hardly a wizened old veteran but in the dog-eat-dog battlegrounds of professional golf, you’ve got to grow up quickly.

Having made a sizeable leap in his career this season by earning promotion to the main European Tour through the second-tier Challenge Tour rankings, Neil is currently enjoying a well-earned rest after a fraught end to the year.

The nail-nibbling conclusion he endured to the Challenge Tour Grand Final, where he grabbed his tour card with nothing to spare, would’ve given some of the most hardened campaigners the heebie-jeebies while three rapid fire events on the main circuit in Hong Kong, Mauritius and South Africa spawned a mixture of emotions.

He birdied his final two holes in Hong Kong to make his first cut but then made early exits from his next two events. At least he got something on the board, though.

“Holing two pretty long putts to make the weekend [in Hong Kong] was pretty special,” he reflected. “On 18 I had my manager watching along with Justin [Rose] and when I holed that putt those guys made the biggest roar. Having that support was incredible.”

The aforementioned Rose, who is in the same management stable as Neil, remains a great source of inspiration and influence for the young Scot.

While Neil has been successful in gaining a step up to the European Tour, Rose has been showing just what a fine golfer he is by winning three times in the last couple of months.

His latest triumph arrived in Indonesia on Sunday when he won by eight shots with a staggering 29-under tally. In his last 10 events, Rose has not finished outside the top-10. It’s been pretty good going.

“Ever since we first made contact after my Amateur Championship win and played together at the Open, Justin has always taken an interest in how I’m progressing,” added Neil of his English colleague who began his own tour career by missing 21 cuts in a row.

“He had guys like Nick Faldo and other tour legends that took him under their wings when he was younger. Maybe he feels he is at that stage in his own career where he can help the younger guys coming up and nurture them so they don’t have to suffer what he went through at the start of his professional career.

“There have been guys my age who have come on tour and ripped it apart straight away, like Jon Rahm this year, but many more have struggled.

“So it’s great having someone like Justin looking out for you. He isn’t just a great golfer but a real gentlemen as well, a role model for any young golfer. He is the complete professional.”

After a busy, emotional year, Neil is hoping to come out of the blocks with renewed purpose in 2018.

“It has been hectic recently but now I have a chance to sit down with my coach, Kevin Hale, and look back at the year,” said Neil, who has been joined on tour by another young Scot in Connor Syme. “We will look through the stats and confirm where my strengths and weaknesses were.

“It was mission accomplished and I can reflect on a year which has been among the best of my career so far.

“Those first three events were a chance to get out there and feel comfortable in a new environment.

“I felt at home and absolutely loved it. I was getting used to the idea that this is where I have to earn my money now.

“Everyone is telling me the hard work starts here. But it’s not as if I didn’t appreciate that myself. I have come out of a tough league but this is the big league now.”