Superb Scotland have won the 17-team European Nations Cup, defeating Italy in a play-off after a day of drama at Sotogrande.
Led by national coach Ian Rae, the SGU quartet of Bradley Neil (Blairgowrie), Graeme Robertson (Glenbervie), Jack McDonald (Kilmarnock Barassie) and Scott Borrowman (Dollar) took the title to start the 2014 season in style.
The Scots saw off the challenge of a host of top European rivals on Spain’s Costa del Sol, including favourites England who had Amateur champion Garrick Porteous and US Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick among their number. France and Ireland were joint third.
Blairgowrie teenager Neil was the hero for the Scots on another windy day, as the in-form player saw off Renato Paratore with a birdie at the second extra hole.
Neil also secured a share of second place in the individual event after rounds of 71, 71, 76 and 72, three strokes behind Italian winner Guido Migliozzi, as the reigning Scottish Boys champion continued his superb start to the year, yet to finish outside the top three in competition in 2014.
The Scots emulated the success of countrymen Scott Henry, Callum Macaulay, Wallace Booth and Keir McNicoll who triumphed in the Nations Cup back in 2008.
As well as Scotland’s victory in the team competition that year, Andrew McArthur and Richie Ramsay finished joint-second in the individual standings in 2005, meaning Neil has joined good company with his own efforts.
But it was all about the team performance for the Scots this week, as each player played their part with three scores from four counting across the four days.
While Neil and McDonald, the 2013 SGU Men’s Order of Merit winner, had counting scores in every round, it was left to former GB&I cap Robertson to see the team home with his gutsy 74.
Five shots adrift going into the final day, the Scots dug deep as the Italians faltered, ensuring both countries tied on 878, before each country was asked to select a player for the play-off. Neil held his nerve, making birdie at the par-5 second hole having reached the green in two, while his opponent could only par. The pair had made pars at the first play-off hole thanks to sand saves.
Rae said: “It’s been a brilliant week and we’re delighted to win a great event. The guys played nicely all four rounds and we just hung in there. It was windy most of the week so conditions were difficult.
“Everyone played their part, maintained a course strategy. The players were first class, none more so than Graeme, who was our last player to come in. He had to produce a score when it counted and he made two great pars on the 17th and 18th; an awesome performance.
“Individually, Bradley also continued his great start to the season, as did Jack. Bradley showed great nerve to win the play-off.”
With US-based players like Grant Forrest, now world-ranked 39, and James Ross both missing from the team, Rae feels the win shows the growing strength in depth of Scottish amateur golf.
“We were without our highest-ranked player and other players based in the US,” added Rae. “The win shows the depth we now have, which is pleasing.”
The team success follows Scotland’s Test Match victory over South Africa at Leopard Creek last month, and their run to the European Men’s Team Championship final last year.
Neil, meanwhile, seems certain to climb well into the world’s top 100 after his performance in Sotogrande