Having idolised Stephen Gallacher when the pair were clubmates at Bathgate, it will be a dream come true for Grant Forrest to be flying the Lothians flag with him on the 2019 European Tour.
Gallacher’s 23rd successive campaign on the circuit, where he has chalked up three title triumphs, will coincide with Forrest’s rookie season after the 25-year-old led four Scots in securing step-ups from the Challenge Tour.
Forrest now lives in North Berwick but it was at Bathgate where he was introduced to golf by his dad Graeme and admits he was both influenced and inspired by seeing Gallacher make a name for himself at the time.
“He was the sort of poster boy of Bathgate,” said Forrest, who secured his seat at European golf’s top table by finishing seventh on the second-tier circuit’s money-list in just his second full season in the pro ranks.
“He always had a lot of input to juniors by coming along to the prize-giving. There’s an old pic of me at Bathgate – I think it was in 2004, the year he won the Dunhill Links. It’s quite funny actually.
“He was obviously idolised there and, having already played a couple of practice rounds with him this season, to now be out there playing on the same tour as him is quite exciting.
“Stevie and Richie Ramsay in particular have been really good with myself and the other Challenge Tour guys. They’ve said that any questions we have they will be there to answer them for us.”
Forrest was speaking in Stirling, where he was joined by two of the other European Tour tartan army newcomers, Liam Johnston and Bob MacIntyre, at an event organised by the trio’s management company, Edinburgh-based Bounce Sport.
He is now in Dubai, a base he used effectively on the Challenge Tour, preparing for next week’s Honma Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2019 main tour campaign.
Masters champion Patrick Reed will head that field at Fanling and Forrest is looking to get this exciting new chapter of his career off to a good start, admitting that he’s setting his sights high for the season overall.
“You have to,” insisted Forrest, who is attached to Craigielaw and also practises at Archerfield Links when he’s at home. “Even if you don’t reach them, if you set them high and get close to them then you are going to be doing all right.
“The goal, therefore, is not just to keep my card. Every time you are teeing it up you want to be competing for wins and for trophies. That’s never going to change for myself. I’m really looking forward to getting out there and competing on this stage.
“If you set your goal to finish top 110 and you just miss it, you could be 115th and lose your card. If you say you want to be in top 60 and play in the DP World Tour Championship, you might end up 65th or 70th and that’s a big difference.
“You always have to set the bar high. We all know what we are capable of and I think that is quite important going forward.”
After Hong Kong, Forrest is playing in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open the following week before, prior to Christmas, moving on to South Africa for two events, the South African Open and Alfred Dunhill Championship.
“The last couple of weeks I have just been chilling out after having quite a run of events at the end of the Challenge Tour season,” replied the former Scottish Amateur champion to being asked how important pacing himself will be over a long campaign.
“I’ve also played quite a few main tour events already so that you know what you need to do to prepare for a tournament. You just have to do what suits you.”
Only time will tell if Forrest and the other newcomers – Aberdonian David Law makes up the quartet – qualify for events like the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic early in the new year.
The same goes for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, which is being staged in East Lothian for the second year in a row but at The Renaissance Club on this occasion rather than Gullane.
“Playing in that would be pretty special as it is literally right on my doorstep,” said Forrest. “It’s a big Rolex Series event the week before The Open. There’s a good chance I will be playing in it one way or another, but there’s a lot of golf to be played before then.”