'Lucky timing' sees Lothians caddie Stephen Neilson bag first big win
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Neilson, a semi-finalist in the 2010 Scottish Amateur Championship at Gullane, had caddied on the DP World Tour for more than a decade without hitting the jackpot.
But his wait to enjoy a winner’s celebration finally ended alongside Ewen Ferguson on Sunday as his fellow Scot landed the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in Doha.
Neilson only picked up Ferguson’s bag due to his regular caddie, Shane Koeries, being unavailable for the $2 million tournament, but it turned into a week to cherish for both of them.
“I don’t have a player with a full category this season,” said Neilson, who lost to eventual winner Michael Stewart in that national championship in East Lothian.
“I’ve just been working week-to-week, so, when Ewen needed someone for last week, he messaged me and I was obviously keen to work.
“I did a couple of events for him in July 2020 and we got on really well, so it was great being back on the bag.
“He’s been playing really well lately so it was exciting - and lucky timing for me - to get on the bag when I did.”
Neilson is in his 11th season as a full-time tour caddie and enjoyed his breakthrough coming alongside a fellow Scot.
“The closest I have been before was when Craig Lee got into a play-off in the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland but lost to Thomas Bjorn,” he added.
“I also had a second place caddying for South African Justin Walters a few years ago in Portugal, so I’d been close a couple of times.”
Ferguson jumped 144 spots to 167th in the world rankings on the back of his win, which saw him join David Law, Bob MacIntyre, Grant Forrest and Calum Hill in landing maiden victories in the last three years.
“He doesn’t have any real weaknesses in his game,” said Neilson, who lives in Dunbar with wife Kelly, of Scotland’s latest tour champion. “His distance control was great last week. He was very good at clubbing up and hitting ‘knock down’ shots with full control of where the ball was going.”
Ferguson finished eagle-par-birdie to win by a shot, emulating both Andrew Coltart and Paul Lawrie in the process by tasting victory at Doha Golf Club. He did so despite running up a double-bogey 6 in the final round.
“I didn’t do or say anything special after that,” said Neilson. “I just reminded him to stay patient and stick to the game plan and he would get his birdie chances on the back nine.
“He likes to chat and have a laugh, so I just made sure we kept doing that on Sunday.”
Ferguson now has a dream date in the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in July, when a star-studded field will include Open champion Collin Morikawa and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth.
“This will be great for Ewen’s confidence,” said Neilson, who is staying on his bag for his next few events. “Winning is difficult on tour as the standard is so high. But I know he will want to keep working hard with his team and hopefully be back in contention with another chance to win.”