Joe Bryce has become Scottish amateur golf’s man of the moment – 12 months after he couldn’t even pick up a golf club.
The 21-year-old from Bathgate is buzzing after recording back-to-back wins in the Craigmillar Park Open and the Battle Trophy at Crail.
The brilliant double has put Bryce on the radar for the Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool later in the year, something that seemed highly unlikely a year ago.
“I didn’t play golf at all for about three months at the start of last season,” revealed Bryce, who has followed the likes of Eric Brown, Bernard Gallacher and Stephen Gallacher off the West Lothian club’s conveyor belt of talent.
“I had a really bad back. My hips were out of place and it was putting stress on my back. I didn’t touch a club at all for a spell and any time I tried to get back into it, it just flared up again. It’s no longer a problem, though, as I’ve got my exercises and to do on a regular basis.”
Bryce, who works for Alan Wright in the Craigmillar Park pro shop and is set to start his PGA training there in September, produced brilliant last-day performances to record his two title triumphs.
He closed with rounds of 65 and 64 to win the Craigmillar Park Open before signing off with efforts of 66 and 68 on the Craighead Links at Crail in the Battle Trophy.
“I played well in the East Alliance during the winter and that definitely gave me confidence going into the start of the new season,” he said, having moved within a whisker of seeing his handicap become plus five. “Craigmillar Park was a bit unexpected, to be honest, after where I was sitting at the halfway stage, but I was in a good position going into the final day at Crail.
“I would say that one of the biggest differences in my game this year is that I am better mentally. I am more patient than I used to be, having become agitated quite easily.
“But now I have settled down.That’s something I have tried to teach myself and I think part of it just comes from growing up.
“My putting has been brilliant the last couple of weeks. Also, when I was in any trouble, I took the sensible option. I didn’t try anything daft.”
Bryce, who cut short a stint at the University of Toledo in Ohio after two years because he didn’t feel it was right for him, is proud to be the latest Bathgate product to be making his mark. “Seeing the success of players from the club over the years is definitely an inspiration to someone like me,” he admitted.
“When I was younger, I was always playing with better players at Bathgate, including some of the assistant pros, and that definitely helped me progress.
“I don’t have a coach, but Stuart Callan, who is the pro at Bathgate, was brilliant with me when I was younger.
“He took us away to Croatia on a trip every year and that was a big help. It was something everyone looked forward to as it was a fun week.”
Bryce’s burst came too late for him to make an initial 26-strong Walker Cup squad, but that doesn’t mean to say he’s been ruled out of joining Turnhouse 50-year-old Euan McIntosh and Liberton’s Kieran Cantley in the battle for just ten final spots in September.