Neil Fenwick ‘inspired’ for Scottish Open debut by dad’s Covid scare
Edinburgh man feared he was going to lose his ‘biggest supporter’ to virus
Neil Fenwick has admitted that seeing his dad come back from death’s door after catching Covid-19 was the “inspiration” behind his success in securing a generous sponsor’s spot in this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
The 32-year-old Edinburgh man earned his debut in the $7 million Rolex Series event through winning the Tartan Pro Tour Order of Merit, coming up on the rails with a late run to land victories at Pollok and Rowallan Castle in two of the last three events on the new circuit set up this season by Paul Lawrie to provide playing opportuinities for Scottish-based professionals.
It will only be Fenwick’s second appearance on the European Tour, having made the cut in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in 2013, and the dream date has certainly helped put a smile back on his face after suffering a torrid time as his dad, Ross, fought for his life for six weeks in a Covid coma.
“It was quite surreal, to be honest,” admitted Fenwick, who is attached to Dunbar, where he did his PGA training under Jacky Montgomery, of a scary time for his family. “We didn’t know anyone who’d had the coronavirus when my dad caught it and it kind of escalated very quickly.
“He had underlying chest issues, but he was really unwell when I phoned the doctor and they got an ambulance for him. Within two days, he went into intensive care and, within another day, he was on a ventilator. The lady said, ‘Listen, if my dad was this ill I’d want to know’ and I was like ‘Jeez, this is serious’.
“He was really struggling at one point. He was on the ventilator for three or four weeks then he had a tracheostomy put in his neck. He was in a coma and there were bits in the middle when he had no hope. They said he was making heavy weather of it.
“For us as a family in lockdown, we felt helpless. We couldn’t see him, we couldn’t provide any kind of support. He’s my little lad’s best friend. He loves his grandad and it was really tough for him. My dad is only 63 and he’s not unhealthy. How hard it hit him was incredible. He wasn’t outputting any oxygen at all for three weeks, which is crazy when you think about that.”
After eventually coming out of his coma, it’s been onwards and upwards for Ross. “It was such a relief,” added Fenwick. “He was one of the longest survivors in Edinburgh in ICU, so we had a piper to welcome him home, which was a nice moment. He had lost three stone and had so much muscle wastage. He looked so frail and old. He stayed with us for six weeks before he felt ready to go back to his own home. To see him now is really great and it’s been great to share my recent success with him.
“He’s an inspiration, to be honest. He’s back to normal living and he’s looking to go back to work next month. He has done his physio really well, so has built up his strength again. He’s got a final couple of appointments to come, but from where he was to now really is incredible and he’s certainly given me a new perspective on life.
“I used to treat playing golf like life and death. I used to put pressure on myself by thinking, ‘I’ve got to do this or got to do that’. I’m now a bit more relaxed. I’m not trying too hard. I’m just trying to enjoy it.
“It could all have been over for my dad. Unfortunately, my parents split up when I was 14 or 15 and I lived with my dad. He’s been my best friend and a massive supporter throughout my career. He’s helped me in every way he can to keep me playing and been there when I’ve wanted to give up. He’s given me that boost to work harder and make me believe that I will get the rewards eventually.”
Fenwick, who was a defender on Dunfermline Athletic’s books before he decided to pursue a career in golf, feared his 2020 campaign was going to be a write-off when the entire PGA EuroPro Tour schedule was scrapped. That changed when Lawrie came up with his six-event circuit and now he is preparing for the biggest week of his career.
“This week is a great bonus and we are very fortunate that Aberdeen Standard Investments made this spot available through the Tartan Pro Tour. It is greatly appreciated,” said Fenwick.
He will have a familiar face caddying for him. “I’m going to have Lloyd Saltman on the bag,” he revealed. “He’s a good friend of mine, having travelled together to EuroPro Tour events. He believes heavily in me. He’s a Renaissance Club member and also works there, so he knows the place really well.
“You are are going to be around somebody for a long time in the ‘bubble’, so I had to go with someone who was a friend as well as a caddie. He knows what it’s all about. He’s not going to be starstruck with these guys. We are there to do a job. We are going there to play as best as we possibly can.
“In the Johnnie Walker, though I was pleased to make the cut, I made the mistake of being like a rabbit caught in the headlights from the Monday morning. I’ve played The Renaissance Club many times, so I know my way around it. I’m just going to treat it like a normal event. I will try to get a practice round with Paul Lawrie on Wednesday. I will just go and enjoy the week.”
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