Hickory wedge key to Brandon Stone’s Scottish Open success at Gullane

South Africa's Brandon Stone won the Scottish Open by four strokes
South Africa's Brandon Stone won the Scottish Open by four strokes
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Brandon Stone not only picked up the Scottish Open trophy in Gullane but also a set of hickory clubs that added to putting a massive smile on the South African’s face during his visit to East Lothian.

Along with a number of other players in the field, Stone couldn’t resist popping into Scotland’s only hickory bespoke shop owned by Boris Lietzow on Gullane high street and came out with a wedding present.

“My fiancée is always giving me a little bit of stick in that she can’t buy someone, who has everything, something,” revealed the 25-year-old after closing with his course-record 60 on Sunday to win the Aberdeen Standard Investments-sponsored event by four shots.

“So, when we drove past the hickory store on Monday afternoon, I said, that would be quite cool. We popped in there on Saturday afternoon, and obviously I went to college at the University of Texas, and there was just this beautiful set of burnt orange, untreated leather-gripped Hickories, and I was like, bang, go, 400 pounds later, smiling.

“I’ve been chipping in the garden at the house all week. I think that might have been helping me because that [hickory] wedge has got zero bounce on it, so the moment you get a little bit of bounce you feel like you can conquer the world.”

Stone’s success in the event on the East Lothian coast saw him follow in the spikemarks of Rickie Fowler, the 2015 winner and, like the American, this year’s champion was full of praise for Gullane as a European Tour venue.

“The golf course was in spectacular condition,” added Stone as he celebrated his third European Tour triumph but first outside South Africa. “I mean the folks at Gullane really did something special considering the heatwave

“It was just a true links. It was just so much fun to play. I mean links golf you have to become so creative. You really gotta feel the shots and there’s so many good golf swings that I made over the last few days.

“When you’re playing on links golf courses such as Gullane or Carnoustie this week, you have to have that creativity aspect to you. You have to be able to manoeuvre the ball in certain ways because of the breeze, or you gotta pitch it 25 feet short of the flag with a wedge sometimes or a 9-iron.

“It’s not just throwing darts at a dart board anymore. It becomes a little bit more creative and it makes your imagination just run wild, which I really felt like it did this week for me.”

His win didn’t come as any surprise to one Scot as Brian Soutar tipped Stone to become a star after beating him in the final of the 2012 South African Amateur Championship in Cape Town.

“I was wondering if that was going to come up,” admitted Stone, laughing. “Well, I think if you were to ask Brian Soutar in 2012 whether I would win the Scottish Open on a links course, he would have actually had a chuckle.

“We’re not exactly known for our links golf capabilities back in South Africa, but I think the weather played its part for me this week, obviously using the correct side of the draw Thursday and Friday.”

If Stone had been able to convert an eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th green on Sunday, he would have become the first player to sign for a 59 in the history of the European Tour.

“The first time that I became aware of that was walking on to the 18th green,” he revealed. “I forgot what I had started the day on, so when I walked on to the final green, I actually looked at the scoreboard and started trying to count the birdies and eagles that were on the scorecard for the day. I managed to do the mathematical equation and looked at my caddy and I said, oh. And he’s like, ‘yeah, we’ve got a shot at it’.

“I remember my first year out on Tour playing the Portugal Masters, and Scott Jamieson had it going. He was three groups behind me, and I’d waited and the scores turned, and I watched his brush by the edge there for the 59, too.

“So there’s some bad juju when it comes to the 59 on the European Tour for some reason, but with the standard of golf that we’ve got in Europe at the moment, I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.”

Stone’s success got him into this week’s Open Championship along with runner-up Eddie Pepperell and Swede Jens Dantorp, who pipped Masters champion Trevor Immelman for the third spot up for grabs by virtue of a higher world ranking.

East Lothian’s Grant Forrest is also in the Carnoustie field and he’s been drawn with 1996 Open champion Tom Lehman and Stone’s compatriot, Dylan Frittelli, in the opening two rounds. It will be the second time Forrest has been in the same group as a former winner, having played with Mark O’Meara on his debut as an amateur at Muirfield in 2013.