New Scottish Open champion Brandon Stone has always been a star in the making, according to the Fifer who beat him six years ago.
Leven’s Brian Soutar defeated Stone in the final of the South African Amateur Championship in 2012, but has maintained an admiration for the young player from near Johannesburg since that clash.
Soutar eventually opted not to pursue a career in professional golf and now is a project manager for a Fife-based energy services company, but he still remembers Stone and was thrilled by his performance at Gullane, where he shot a final round 60 to win by four strokes.
“It was fantastic to watch Brandon win yesterday, especially the way he just went out and totally blitzed it,” said Soutar.
“He had a great air of confidence about him back in 2012 as he was the number one amateur in South Africa and you could tell he knew he was the best.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on his career ever since. I think this win, and especially the manner in which he won will just reinforce his self-belief that’s maybe been missing the past 12 to 18 months.
“He is an unbelievable talent and the sky really is the limit for him.”
Soutar now just plays with friends when he has the chance between his work – which takes him abroad regularly – and his young family.
“It’s funny because I was playing the Old Course last Monday and me and my mates were actually talking about Brandon,” he added.
“I always said he will be a top 10 player one day, and I’m always talking him up. I was getting a bit stick as he hasn’t been great the past 12 months.
“But I’ve been telling everyone `give him time’ and then, boom, a 60 in the last round to win by 4.
“He is great guy and wish him all the success that will undoubtedly come his way.”
Stone recalls his battle with Soutar as well as the Fifer does.
“I think if you were to ask Brian back in 2012 whether I would win the Scottish Open on a links course, he would have actually had a chuckle,” said the South African.
“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.
“The golf course was in spectacular condition. The folks at Gullane really did something special considering the heat wave.
“I just felt comfortable. It was a true links and just so much fun to play.“
Stone’s plans for next week were as far away from Carnoustie as could be imagined – a whisky tour of Islay – but now he was rushing to find some last minute accommodation at Carnoustie for the Open.
“I’m hugely excited,” he said. “But already knowing that I was the best player in Scotland this particular week is something I will hold very dear to my heart.”