Bob MacIntyre has swapped his sticks for clubs with a heavy heart..and admits he wouldn’t be in the Ryder Cup if he could have made money out of playing shinty

new balance

Bob MacIntyre is tapping his hands against the table and a grin is spreading across his face because he has been through hell to get this close.

‘It’s nearly time,’ he says. ‘Can almost touch it.’

He can, but not quite. Not for a few more weeks anyway, but that’s OK. He has the Ryder Cup first, and what a joy that is — an undiluted sort of happiness.

But there is another image on his horizon that shows a different kind of club and a different kind of ball.

‘I’ve missed it,’ he says, and we are talking about shinty. His true love.

‘I stopped playing 10 weeks ago in the run-up to the Open. That was hard. But I had qualifying for the Ryder Cup in my head and I knew it was going to be close, me getting on to the team or not. Couldn’t get myself bashed up and wreck my chances, so I had to take a break.’

Bob Macintyre will be part of Europe's team for the Ryder Cup in Rome starting next weekend

Bob Macintyre will be part of Europe’s team for the Ryder Cup in Rome starting next weekend 

The Scot has admitted that he would still be playing shinty if he could make money from it

The Scot has admitted that he would still be playing shinty if he could make money from it 

The two teams who will do battle for the Ryder Cup in Rome, when it begins next weekend

The two teams who will do battle for the Ryder Cup in Rome, when it begins next weekend 

Cracking game, shinty. In Oban, where MacIntyre’s from in the Western Highlands of Scotland, it is big. He plays for Oban Celtic, a serious team, and his dad, Dougie, is the manager. But it can be a rough way to spend your time.

‘I’ve cracked everything,’ he says. ‘Chipped teeth, broken toes, broken fingers. One of the boys in the last week broke his hand in his first game back from breaking the other hand. It’s a feisty game. The season is over the week of the Ryder Cup but I’m telling you now, I can’t wait for the winter training.

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‘I love it. It’s like a drug going inside you. You know, I’ve said this to a few of my mates, but I think if shinty paid decent I wouldn’t be playing professional golf. That’s how much I love it. It’s the buzz it gives me.

‘It’s part of the culture where we live and being away from it, that’s hard, but I had to leave it, didn’t I? I remember when I was driving home from the Open this summer, I was in the car and speaking to family and I was like, “I’m going to go play shinty”. They were saying, “Hmmm, not a great idea. You’re so close to achieving a lifetime dream and if it goes wrong and you get injured you’re never going to live it down”.

‘But it’s that buzz. It’s just different to golf. I get that buzz in golf if I’m doing well in a tournament, and that is a great feeling, but I don’t get it from the day to day. Shinty, I get the buzz every few seconds.

‘There have been times when I’ve struggled on the course, gone back for a game of shinty, and it has cleared my mind and actually lets me play free golf. Love it.

‘But I’ll tell you about the Ryder Cup — I am feeling that buzz now. I’m feeling it.’

Sitting in the sunshine at Wentworth, a short while before Luke Donald’s team headed for Rome, he is tapping his hands on the table again. MacIntyre is one of the game’s good guys. Likeable. Uninhibited. A lad of 27 who has earned more than £7million in six years as a pro, but not even a head shot with a caman stick would jazz up his outlook on life.

When we shared a cab in Dubai earlier this year, he offered up a nice line on mansions: ‘I put my arse in about three rooms — why would I need 10?’

For that reason, among others that we see on the course, he had a vast number of Europeans rooting for him to make Donald’s 12 for Rome. MacIntyre got there in the end, the last of the six automatic qualifiers, but it was an almighty slog.

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Truth be told, he might have struggled to land a captain’s pick had he not got over the line on the European points system, which is a thought he just does not want to even think about.

‘The last few weeks of qualifying were hell,’ he says. ‘I wanted it so much. I’ve watched the Ryder Cup with my family since I was a tiny boy. And the closer it got, it just lives in your mind.

‘I remember at the Czech Masters, last month, I played the first two rounds with Luke Donald. I knew what was on the line and I’m going along great and then in the second round I quadruple bogey the 16th. He’s watching me and the stress levels were high. It was probably a good chance for him to see how I react — I was angry with myself but you’re also trying not to show it.

Macintyre has swapped the sticks of shinty for the golf clubs and now is part of team Europe

Macintyre has swapped the sticks of shinty for the golf clubs and now is part of team Europe 

MacIntyre will be part of the team captained by Luke Donald (left) against the USA next week

MacIntyre will be part of the team captained by Luke Donald (left) against the USA next week 

‘I managed to turn it around (he went from flirting with the cut to finishing fourth) but you do find yourself thinking what any bad shot might mean for your chances. When qualifying was over the next week, after Switzerland (at the European Masters, where he tied for 55th) I’ve never felt nerves like it.

I was in the car back to Geneva airport and was watching the scores to see if I would hold on to my place in the team. ‘I was trying to watch some football to take my mind off it but I was shaking. My manager called me to say, “You’re in”, and I was telling him it wasn’t mathematically certain yet and to not call back until it was. Shaking and shaking.

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‘I’m telling you, when it was all said and done and I was on that team, I was just so relieved.’

Time will tell what kind of experience MacIntyre has at Marco Simone — his results have been turbulent, but he did claim one of his two DP World Tour titles on that same course at the Italian Open last year. Such knowledge will be useful on a fiendish track that will be largely unfamiliar to most players from both sides. ‘It has to help,’ he says.

Also in MacIntyre’s favour is a go-for-it playing style that can be his downfall in strokeplay but a gift in match play — a format in which he memorably once halved a WGC Match Play tie with Dustin Johnson when the American was world No 1 in 2021.

‘I’m a bit erratic when I play golf,’ he says. ‘I can maybe go on a run of 10 holes where I can have seven birdies and a quadruple bogey. In strokeplay that kills you. In match play you’re winning.

‘I love that battle you get in match play. You keep an eye on the guy, look at him, judge his demeanour, the reactions. I remember the DJ match clearly. I was leading and when we pulled level going to the last I saw him doing a fist pump. That was a real moment for me. To have the best player in the world fist-pumping against me just told me, “I can play this game”.’

His place in Rome is further validation. ‘Now it’s all about winning it,’ he says. ‘That’s what matters.’

Get the job done and the feeling might even live up to a game of shinty.

new balance

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