DURBAN – Brandon Stone had to jump straight onto Airbnb and the like on Sunday night, as his plans changed for the considerably better, thanks to a day he will never forget in Gullane, Scotland.
Stone fired a 10-under par 60, to snatch the Scottish Open from a stellar cast, and also book a last-minute slot at The Open Championship. Given his form leading up to this week, Stone hadn’t planned on going to Carnoustie, but his stunning Sunday has given him the most pleasant of headaches.
“He barely slept on Sunday night, as he was replying to all the well-wishers. So he had to ask his caddie to drive from Gullane, while he passed out in the passenger seat,” Stone’s father Kevin explained.
Incredibly, Kevin maintains that he had a feeling about his son’s third win on the European Tour. He told his wife that much on Wednesday - not that she took kindly to the confidence!
“She told me that I had just given him the commentator’s curse,” Kevin explained.
“We had what you could call a bosberaad with Brandon recently, and he sounded in a much better space. Sometimes people don’t see that side of it, the struggles and the work that has to be done. It is a hell of a tough job that all these guys do, and Brandon had a really tough time turning things around,” Kevin revealed.
“He has kept at it, getting up at 6am to go to gym, and then only coming home after 8pm from hitting balls. His coach says he has never seen someone work harder, and I am really proud that all of that graft has paid off.”
Back in 2017, when Brandon added the Alfred Dunhill Championship to his 2016 SA Open title, he seemed destined to flourish on the European Tour. And yet, by the time he arrived in Scotland last week, he knew that the clock was ticking furiously on his tour exemption, and the dread of going back to the notorious Challenge Tour was hovering like the Grim Golf Reaper.
The win catapulted Brandon from 371 in the world rankings to just outside the top 100, at number 110. He also leapt to 14th on the Race to Dubai standings, and earned the small matter of over R15million.
More than the money, however, is the peace of mind of playing rights for the next two seasons.
“He knew that he had about five tournaments to make the money he needed to, in order to keep his card. That is why this win is so massive, because it is essentially keeping him in a job. He found a little something in Ireland, and sounded very positive on the phone. I just had a feeling about Scotland,” Kevin reiterated.
By Sunday, he rose to remind his wife that Brandon would not only win, but he would also shoot 62. The eyes might have rolled again, but once Brandon started rolling in the putts, the puzzle that he and his support pod have been putting together for 18 months finally came into full view.
While most of South Africa fretted about Kevin Anderson and his Wimbledon exploits, the Stones’ TV channel remained unturned. Kevin’s first chirp to his son, who narrowly missed out on a historic 59, was a lament that his early morning call had been proved wrong.
“He was supposed to shoot 62, not 60! But he won, and enjoyed it - and that is the most important thing. It couldn’t have come at a better time, and he can now relax in his game.”
Kevin will not be able to get to Carnoustie in time to walk alongside his son, because of visa requirements, but he is looking forward to watching it all unfold from the comfort of the KZN north coast.
“Car-Nasty is the toughest course in the world! But he will go out there and enjoy the occasion. There is no pressure this week, aside from finding a bed to sleep!”
After the grind of the past 18 months, no one will begrudge the 25-year-old Stone his moment in the Scottish sun.