“If I ever had a shinty game, golf would take a back seat because I could play golf every other day of the week.”
Robert MacIntyre had an incredible end to 2018, earning his European Tour card in November, before securing two top-15 finishes at elite level in December.
But it’s only six years since he properly began to take golf seriously. Until then, the Scot’s passion was for shinty, and he played for his local club, Oban Camanachd, between the ages of 13 and 17.
“One of my buddies broke his thumb and that made me realise that I couldn’t afford to get a pin in my hand,” he told BBC Scotland. “That was in one of my last shinty games before I decided to go all-out with this golf thing.”
‘My golf swing comes from shinty’
The “golf thing” has turned out pretty spectacularly so far for the son of a greenkeeper.
MacIntyre’s father Dougie has worked at Glencruitten Golf Club in Oban for more than 20 years, and the family home looks out over the 12th tee.
During his younger days, MacIntyre and his two older sisters would “have a whack” on the four holes closest to the house after his dad finished work.
But he insists it is his years of playing shinty – rather than those formative experiences – that have shaped his current career.
“The hand-eye co-ordination in my golf has come from my shinty,” he said. “I’ve been hitting a shinty ball since I could walk.
“I played up front a lot, so had a flat stick. Sometimes you had to play a ball about 20 yards in the air, so you had to open the stick up. It was just instinctive and the majority of my golf game is like that.
“Tee to green you’ve got to hit it good, and shinty encourages the motion of a golf swing.”
‘Playing with Els made me realise I could compete’
Left-hander MacIntyre turned professional in 2017 and lists Scottish Amateur Champion in 2015 as one of his several accolades.
He was one of four Scots to have a successful enough 2018 season on the Challenge Tour to earn the “dream come true” of a European Tour card.
The step up started splendidly in December, finishing in the top 15 at the South African Open in Johannesburg and the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
On both occasions, he played a round in the company of four-time major winner Ernie Els.
“That night, I sat down and thought ‘wow, look where we are now’,” said MacIntyre. “It was a bit of a shock to the system for someone from a small town like Oban to finally achieve what I’ve achieved.
“It wasn’t going to feel any different until I played with one of the big boys, and for me to hold my own was a real encouragement. I realised I could actually compete there.
“At the last hole in Jo’burg, Ernie just told me to keep doing what I’m doing. I couldn’t of really asked for a better year, other than getting a win under my belt, but that’ll come.”