Blairgowrie’s Bradley Neil is swapping a dreich East Perthshire winter for the heat of the Australian summer.
The local teenager, a member of Blairgowrie Golf Club and the Scotland U18 performance squad, earlier this week left for Sydney and hopes to play a key role for Team GB in the prestigious Australian Youth Olympic Festival.
It is the first time Britain has teed-up golf at any Olympic event since 1900, with top Tour professionalso being welcomed to Rio de Janeiro next time round, in 2016.
Bradley, who celebrates his 17th birthday in Oz, admitted it was a thrill to be named for a 72-strokeplay event being played in stifling temperatures likely to climb to the 40-degree mark.
He said: “It is a huge boost to be regarded among the most promising junior players in Britain.
“It is an indication that the hard work I have been putting in after a good season last year has paid off.
“There are 10 in the team, with five boys and five girls under 18. But only two were selected for the teams so there will be added pressure on me. Selection for the team event may have come down to World Amateur Golf Rankings as Euan Scott, another Scot, and myself are both inside the top 500.
“It’s not a format I’m familiar with playing for Scotland but I just have to focus on my own game and the team’s score will take care of itself.
“It will be a fantastic experience. I recently returned from Abu Dhabi’s stunning Yas Links Golf Centre and we had support from the SGU, their staff and Aberdeen Asset Management. It was a different world out there but representing Team GB will be something even more special.
“It will be very different from getting in games at the likes of Blairgowrie and Monifeith, where it has been a bit wet rather than cold. Dealing with the heat will be a new experience for me but the Team GB kit includes everything from clothing to bug spray and sun protection cream.”
The trip Down Under comes hard on the heels of a five-star warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi with a Scotland development squad.
Thoughts of exams at Blairgowrie High School are going on hold for the sixth year pupil, with golf getting priority status from January 17-20 at the Twin Creeks Golf Club, an hour’s drive out of Sydney.
The young Brits will be up against their peers from countries including Argentina, Australia, Japan, Korea, China and New Zealand, with Bradley selected to fly the flag in the team event as well as the individual challenge.
The golfers are among 120 Team GB athletes who will compete in 11 Olympic sports. Around 1700 athletes are in Australia for the high profile event.
Bradley said: “I am getting a great deal of support and the school has been fantastic. Teachers and friends know how much golf means to me. But with three Higher exams coming up it is a real balancing act.”
Bradley has drawn-up priority targets for the season ahead in a mix of boys and mens golf, but he admits the prospect of making the Junior Ryder Cup team for 2014 is, inevitably, a longer-term target.
“When it emerged that the tournament would be held at my home club Blairgowrie I couldn’t help but think that it would be the perfect way to sign-off from junior golf.
Representing Europe would be a great way to bow out. It will be a huge challenge to make the team but I suspect that will be my only goal for 2014.”