Michael Weston speaks to popular Scot Robert MacIntyre about life in Oban, his laid-back demeanour and taking success in his stride.
Robert MacIntyre Exclusive: “I Don’t Listen To The Hype”
With three runner-up spots already, plus a top-ten finish at The Open – his first Major Championship – you sense a maiden professional victory is not too far off for 23-year-old Scot Robert MacIntyre.
No one in the MacIntyre camp is thinking too far ahead, however, least of all the man himself. Rather, he’s taking everything in his stride and making the most of every new experience that comes his way – and there have been many in the last 12 months.
“I’m brought up in a community back home where everyone’s pushing you to be better and that’s all I want to do,” he says.
“After coming second in Germany, I was like, ‘Well, how could I have won that?’ It was the same at the British Masters and Made in Denmark. We don’t go ‘Ach, we let ourselves down there, we disappointed people there’.
“It was like, ‘that was a great result, what can we do better next time we play here, or what can we do next time we’re in that position?’”
This is very much MacIntyre’s typical outlook. He’s a relaxed character with a young head on old shoulders. That’s not to say nothing ruffles him, as Kyle Stanley found out at last year’s Open.
Playing alongside the Scotsman, he struck a ball into the gallery and neglected to shout ‘fore’ – which left MacIntyre most unimpressed.
“It’s just the safety of the game,” he says. “I’m looking out for other people. I’m not doing that to be a bad person or get under anyone’s skin. If a ball goes off line it’s not always going to be a wee knock. It’s the way I’ve been brought up and it’s the way I’ll always be.”
He’s been brought up well. At home, he’s never happier than when playing with the two young boys his parents foster. He lives by Glencruitten Golf Club where his dad, Dougie, is the greenkeeper.
This par 62 is his second home and no matter what lies in store further down the line, he struggles to picture setting up home away from Oban. Besides, he has his shinty team to consider.
“I live on the golf course with my parents, they’re still there,” he says with a smile. “It’s so relaxed, it’s actually too relaxed, but I wouldn’t move from there. It’s too comfortable in Oban, it’s just the lifestyle. It’s a great place to be brought up and live. For now, my heart’s set in Oban.
“I still train [shinty] every week when I’m home. It’s a cross between hockey and hurling. If you don’t know it you’ll think it’s violent but it is very skilled. I’ve played a couple of games competitively, but nothing too much. Golf’s the priority.
“When I’m playing golf, it’s some team we’ve got. My family don’t come to every event, but sometimes they’re all there and it’s great.
“In Germany, some of my pals flew over when I was in the lead. I went out for dinner on Saturday night with them and it was just general chit-chat. It’s just about getting that chilled out mindset and that’s what my family and friends help with.”
The popular Scot has a lot of support, as anyone tracking his progress during tournaments will know.
When that win does arrive, as surely it will, he won’t forget a single person who’s helped him along the way – although he’s especially thankful for all the advice offered by swing coach David Burns, including his ‘hot coal’ mantra.
“He’s done almost everything from a psychology side of things. If someone passed you a bit of hot coal, would you hold onto it? You’d drop it instantly. That’s what we do when we hit a bad shot, we deal with it.
“He’s been brilliant. He’s done the whole package for me and my game’s improved probably 25 per cent since I started working with him about three years ago.”
An impressive season
Despite enjoying a glittering amateur career, MacIntyre admits he didn’t really think he “had it” until he was 16. In 2013, he became the first player to win the Scottish Youths Championship and Scottish Boys Open Strokeplay Championship in the same year, before winning the Scottish Amateur two years later.
He almost added the Amateur Championship to his resume in 2016, before representing Team GB&I in the Walker Cup. It left him pondering the big decision.
“Finishing at the Walker Cup, I was actually thinking about going to Q-School as an amateur and seeing if I could do another year as an amateur,” he says. “One day, I said to my management team out of the blue ‘You know what, before Q-School I’m going to turn pro. It came as a bit of a shock.”
It’s hard not to picture him delivering the news with one of those infectious grins and a little quip for good measure; he has that way about him.
“There was nothing else for me to achieve other than win the British or US Amateur. There can only be one winner each year. Guys have stayed amateur their whole lives trying to win those. It was the right time and everything’s been well since.”
It certainly has, the highlight being Royal Portrush. His final-round 68 was enough for a tie for 6th and his third six-figure payout in three months.
“I was star struck, but we chatted the whole way round, not just the players but also the caddies. Rory’s caddie started the banter off on the first tee with my caddie and it just went from there.”
Taking it all in his stride
He may be getting closer to victory and earning good money, but it’s getting a pat on the back from his fellow pros that’s giving him the most satisfaction.
He was especially chuffed when Ross Fisher tweeted him on a fantastic week at the Porsche European Open, where MacIntyre finished second. It’s compliments like this that have helped him settle so quickly and feel at ease on tour.
Perhaps, though, it won’t always be like this. With success comes greater expectations. Already there’s talk of whether MacIntyre will be the one to fill Colin Montgomerie’s shoes; it’s also been suggested he has the potential to emulate the same type of sporting greatness as Andy Murray. How’s that for pressure?
MacIntyre bats that one away. “It’s brilliant getting messages of support, but I don’t feel any pressure. That’s talk. I don’t listen to the hype. The pressure I feel is when I’m coming down the stretch in a tournament trying to win it.
“It’s just about doing what I can do. Obviously I set targets for myself with short-term and long-term goals. There have been goals that were meant to be long term but they’re rather close right now.
“This year it was about securing my card. I’ve done that with flying colours. It’s now about trying to win to guarantee that, but if that doesn’t come around, it’s the same again next year. You keep working harder and trying to get better.
“If you do that, you keep moving up the ladder. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse because other guys are getting better.”
These wise words are followed by a few more as he offers a number of top tips for amateur golfers. He’s an uncomplicated guy, which is typical of the way he plays the game.
Better ball-striking? Just put the ball back in your stance. Chipping advice? Back in the stance. More wedge spin? “Erm, yeah, ball back in the stance,” he chuckles.
He hasn’t put a foot wrong until posing for a few portrait shots. “Tuck your shirt in,” barks his manager. “Aye,” he says with a smirk. He may have muttered something, too, but everything’s fine. Yes, we’re all good here.
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