Nick Rodger: Grant Forrest’s European Tour win a victory for pure Scottish determination

You’ve probably noticed that there’s been a fair bit of rain over the last few days.

In fact, even those sodden clouds that have been hurling great biblical torrents down on us actually look quite bored with it all now.

It’s got to the point where these heavily-laden, morale-sapping clumps of overwhelming bleakness that have been hanging about like a foul honk are so damp, they’re beginning to rust around the edges like the wheel arches of an old British Leyland car. I’m sure there must be sods of moss growing in some of the pesky blighters too.

At least this dank, glowering mass of misery had a little corner of a silver lining in the shape of Grant Forrest’s maiden European Tour win in the Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews at the weekend.

Throw in a top-15 finish by Robert MacIntyre among the global superstars in the WGC event in Memphis and a timely victory on the Rose Ladies Series from Gemma Dryburgh ahead of two big weeks of women’s golf in Scotland and it was a pretty decent few days on the home front.

Those of us who followed Forrest’s career through the amateur scene always had that inkling that he’d do something in the pro ranks. Then again, we’ve had that inkling countless times before with emerging talents who have subsequently disappeared off the face of the earth amid the ruthless, unforgiving toils and troubles of professional golf. This game doesn’t dish out guarantees.

Boasting a highly impressive amateur pedigree – Scottish boys and men’s champion, Walker Cup player and Amateur Championship runner-up – Forrest, like many before him, ticked plenty of boxes but then golf is much more than a box-ticking exercise.

Forrest’s former Craigielaw clubmate, Lloyd Saltman, for example, was tipped for huge things when he turned pro on the same day as his friend, Rory McIlroy, but he struggled to scale the heights.

Saltman made the leap when he wasn’t playing particularly well and Forrest used that as a cautionary tale. He was set to make the pro plunge after the Walker Cup of 2015 but delayed his move and had another year in the amateur game. Patience and perseverance has paid off handsomely.

With the aforementioned MacIntyre at the vanguard of an eye-catching wave of young Scots and reeling off the kind of uplifting results that should just about be accompanied by the 20th Century Fox fanfare, there was a general feeling that Forrest’s time in the spotlight would come too.

That’s easier said than done, of course. In a season which saw English perennial Richard Bland finally win a first tour title at the 478th attempt, your time can take, well, a heck of a long time to come. Many never get to savour it. In his 77th event on the main circuit, though, Forrest became a tour champion and the mental fortitude and fearless front-running he demonstrated to birdie the last two holes on Sunday underlined his qualities.

The 28-year-old is in the same Bounce management stable as MacIntyre, as well as Calum Hill who continues to knock on the door, and the work that company has done in getting leading amateur players some valuable professional experience before guiding them through the perils and pitfalls of that daunting amateur-to-pro transition continues to reap rewards. We can only wonder how many other naturally gifted Scottish talents down the years could have prospered with the proper support and shrewd advice that is available to some of the current crop these days.

In this game of fine margins and complex demands, you need more than talent alone to thrive. Forrest has grown up quickly over the last few years. He lost his dad, Graeme, to cancer just weeks before he won the Scottish Amateur title in 2012 and a sense of perspective remains a valuable club in the bag as he continues his progression. The silver lining he savoured at the weekend was another significant milestone in this golfing journey.

AND ANOTHER THING

If we’re not grousing and cursing about the weather, then we’re moaning and groaning about the format of Olympic golf. It should be matchplay, say some. It should be a team affair, say others. There should be a mixed element to it, roar a few more. These are, of course, all very valid points and could well become part of golf’s Olympic future as it seeks to exploit its full potential on this huge stage.

The 72-hole strokeplay format may be what we’re used to week-in, week-out but, in an individual event, it identifies a true champion. Like Rio in 2016, both the men’s and women’s events in Tokyo over the last week or so provided thrilling theatre with a seven-way play-off for bronze in the men’s tussle and a tense finale in the women’s showdown. “I never tried so hard in my life to finish third,” said Rory McIlroy, who missed out on a medal but finally embraced golf’s Olympic allure.

Drama can’t be manufactured and, while tweaks and additions to the format are no doubt inevitable in years to come, it will be important that any search for something a bit different or special doesn’t descend into the realms of the gimmick.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992