GUTSY Grant Forrest has not given up on his Walker Cup dream despite pulling out of Scotland duty this week to prepare for The Open.
The Craigielaw star stunned SGU officials last Friday by withdrawing from the side for the European Team Championship, which started yesterday in Denmark.
It followed his success in winning the local final qualifier at Dunbar to secure a first major appearance in his native East Lothian.
“I didn’t expect the SGU to be happy with my decision. I can understand why they were disappointed as they wanted to have the best team available,” Forrest told the Edinburgh Evening News.
“But you can’t always please everyone and hopefully they’ll understand that I made a decision that I felt was best for myself on this occasion.”
If it had been an Open anywhere other than Muirfield, Forrest probably would not even have considered missing out on adding to his Scottish cap collection.
“It’s very rare to get the chance to not only play in The Open on your own doorstep, but also prepare properly for it,” said the 20-year-old, who recently moved from Archerfield Estate to North Berwick.
“Instead of having to wait until Monday to get my first practice round at Muirfield, I can go there this week and get myself ready for next week’s test. I didn’t want to let the SGU down, but, after giving the matter lots of consideration, pulling out was the decision I came to.”
Forrest is the reigning Scottish Amateur champion and, at No. 71, is the top Scot in the world amateur golf rankings.
Having also helped Scotland win the Home Internationals last year, then being the last Scot standing in the recent Amateur Championship in Kent, he is a contender for the Walker Cup in September.
Asked if he felt his hopes of making the GB&I side to face the Americans might now be affected, he said: “I know the European Team event is a big one – but it’s not the be all and end all.
“I’ve still the European Individual to come, then the Scottish Amateur, while a good performance at Muirfield might also do me some good.”
Winning the Silver Medal, the prize for leading amateur, would certainly be something to make the GB&I selectors sit up and take notice.
Lloyd Saltman achieved that feat at St Andrews in 2005 and now Forrest is hoping to follow in the spikemarks of his former Craigielaw clubmate.
“Lloyd was around the same age as me when he won the Silver Medal – it is scary to think that was eight years ago,” he said.
“He was someone I definitely looked up to as he was winning events like the Lytham Trophy and Brabazon Trophy and also playing in the Walker Cup when I was a young junior at Craigielaw.”
Another current member of the East Lothian club, Greg Smail, will be caddying for Forrest next week, when he is hoping one of his practice rounds might be in the company of world No. 8 Phil Mickelson.
The American star’s brother, Tim, recruited Forrest for the University of San Diego and, though the coach has since moved on, he was quick to congratulate the Scot when he qualified for the world’s oldest major.
“Tim Mickelson messaged me, saying ‘well done’,” revealed Forrest. “He’s trying to fix up a practice round with Phil for me. He’s asked him and you never know, though I understand it’s a big week for him.
“I’m not expecting too much, to be honest, but obviously that would be great.
“I’ve had a few offers from people wanting to caddie for me but I’ll have Greg on the bag, as he was in the qualifying at Dunbar.
“He’s a regular caddie at Muirfield so he knows the course as well as anyone. I’ve always played well when he’s caddied so hopefully that will be the case again.
“I’ve only played there twice but I’ve caddied there a few times. It’s a tough golf course, especially where they’ve added some new bunkers. I also know that it’s a place where you can’t be too greedy in the rough.”
What Forrest has achieved in the last 12 months is remarkable given that he lost his father Graeme to cancer just over a year ago.
He has shown tremendous character to deal with such a devastating blow and admitted his mum Audrey had been a tower of strength.
“It’s sad to think that my dad won’t be there as I know how much he’d have liked to see me play in The Open, especially at Muirfield,” he said.
“However, I’ve just had to get on with it and a lot of the credit for what I’ve achieved over the last year has to go to my mum.
“She’s such a strong person and I think that has rubbed off on both me and my sister.
“I don’t want to even think how nervous I’m going to be on that first tee, but I’m just going to try and soak the whole thing in.”