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Hype. It’s something that comes with the territory when you’re a young, talented golfer.

Thanks to social media, we routinely see youngsters paraded as the next big thing and, undoubtedly, that can be a daunting prospect.

Take Charlie Woods, for example. Search the 13-year-old’s name on Twitter, and you’ll be met with videos comparing his swing to the best players in the world, clips of his father watching him on the driving range, and fans trying to find odds on him to win major championships. For someone so young, that must be a big weight on your shoulders, no matter who your dad might be.

For 16-year-old Connor Graham and 19-year-old Gregor, hype is something they’ve dealt with since picking up a golf club from an early age. Although it might not be the same as a 15-time major champion’s son, the excitement around them in Scotland is palpable.

Whenever the boys from Blairgowrie play with someone new, the reaction is the same.

Comments that range from, ‘You’re quite the player, aren’t you?’ to being described as the ‘next Rory,’ not many days pass without their futures in the game being talked about positively.

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Sitting in their home club’s junior lounge, the pair are away from the club’s membership, all of whom certainly know about their success. While they like being at the golf course, taking a seat in the clubhouse invariably means members asking about their most recent successes and their next moves in the sport.

It’s understandable, too. They were both scratch golfers before their 14th birthdays, and now play to handicaps of around plus-five. That standard of play has led to them representing Scotland at senior level in the same team, and for Connor to first represent Great Britain and Ireland as a 14-year-old.

Connor And Gregor Graham 1

Photography: Dexter McKeating

“It’s difficult sometimes, you want to try and live up to people’s expectations of you,” Connor explains.

“You know what people expect you to do. But it’s really good knowing you’re a good player. It’s fun knowing that people expect you to play well. If people are being complimentary about you, it means that you’re doing something right, so I actually enjoy that.”

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As Connor’s older brother, Gregor adds, it can sometimes be tough to block out the noise and let the clubs do the talking.

“There are times when you play well and people get excited but you need to try and go back to the baseline.

“If you’re working on something, you just need to stick at it and try not to focus on what people are saying. It’s better just to focus on the golf, really.

“That kind of stuff is just going to take care of itself if you play well.”

Those who might get carried away about the brother’s prospects can be forgiven, however, due to their performances out on the course.

Gregor And Connor Graham 2

While others might be bullish about these achievements, Connor and Gregor, to their credit, are keeping their feet firmly on the ground.

“I’ve had a busy season,” Connor says, with modesty that most others wouldn’t possess.

“I had a few good results at the start of the year. The Lytham Trophy, the St Andrews Links Trophy (a nine-under-par total had him in the top-10).

“Competing with the men, it’s really good. You get that experience of playing against the best amateurs in Europe on such high quality golf courses as well.

“At Lytham, you have to be so accurate off the tee. Everywhere you look, there’s a bunker, so if you’re not straight off the tee, you’ll struggle a bit but, thankfully, I played pretty well.”

Connor Graham Portrait

While his brother has been excelling on the international stage, Gregor’s 2022 hasn’t been so smooth. The start of the year was spent recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, which led to him returning home from the USA where he was on a college golf scholarship.

“That was frustrating,” he admits. “I came home in December and I was feeling really good but it was kind of the second week I went out there that it happened. I was playing one week and then off the next and, to be honest, I was making it worse as I kept playing.

“It was pretty difficult being away from home and being injured at the same time. When you’re injured, you’re kind of just watching everyone play and you’re forced to sit and do nothing. You just want to get up and play. I’ve appreciated being able to get up and play and being injury-free. It’s such a big thing.

“I’m back to full health now and it’s been good to get out and play some events in the last couple of months. I’ve been out on the Tartan Pro Tour, which has been great. I’m mostly just trying to get ready for next year.”

Gregor Graham Portrait

Out on the club’s practice area, there’s a quiet confidence about the pair. It’s not arrogance, but the brothers know they have a gift for the game. Members take notice when the pair practice beside them, and can sometimes be distracted from their own game by the brothers.

Not that it bothers Connor or Gregor. Any shot you ask them to hit, they can hit it, and it’s not long before things get competitive between them. The practice ground, they say, is their favourite place to be, and it helps when you have a buddy who can match your skills.

They say that the competitiveness between them has always been there, and extends to so-called ‘friendly’ matches.

“If we’re playing a friendly match, we’ll definitely try and get in each other’s heads,” laughs Connor. If we’re having a wee competition, we’ll definitely try and put each other off a bit, but that’s not too easy to do sometimes.”

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Indeed, the reason it’s not easy to do is that Gregor has grown something of an immunity to Connor’s mind games, which isn’t a surprise, since he’s had the youngest member of the family joining him on the golf course for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve kind of always grown up with it because he’s always been in my ear with stuff. I’ve just learned to ignore it now. We’re able to keep ourselves company when we’re playing and practicing, so that’s good, even if some of the usual stupid brother fights are there at times.”

At Blairgowrie, the pair are under the same roof as former Amateur champion and current Walker Cup captain Stuart Wilson. Wilson has been part of the Scottish Golf camps which have taken place over the last year in Perthshire, and the brothers haven’t been shy about picking his brains.

“Stuart told us he looks for personality in a player,” Gregor explains. “Obviously, he wants you to go out and try and win, but it’s about being positive and not being negative on the golf course. He cares more about the person you are. He doesn’t want you to be a brat on the course, for example. You know, you’re wearing a GB&I kit when you’re in that team, so he talked a lot about that, respect when you’re on the golf course.”

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Representing GB&I isn’t anything new to Connor, after competing in the Jacques Leglise Trophy this summer. The competition puts the best under-18s from Continental Europe up against their GB&I counterparts. As Connor explains, it was a big learning curve.

“Representing GB&I, at my home course was really cool. Playing in a team environment, it’s something I really enjoy doing, playing in pair’s events. Playing with players on the GB&I team is great, but we had some tough competition with the players on the European side too.

“That week, it was funny, the team were staying in Dundee, so I stayed with them, even though our house is about 200 yards from the first tee. That was a bit strange.”

Connor Graham Jacques Leglise

According to his brother, if you come up against Connor in a match, you probably don’t have much hope. His will to win, he says, is second-to-none.

That desire to come out on top, however, can be tough to manage, particularly with the high calibre of opponents Connor comes up against, and it’s something he admits can improve.

“Sometimes it can be hard to keep that will to win under control. I can be a little hot-headed at times but I’m learning how to control that.

“Every time you hit a bad shot, you just need to try and not give away too much emotion. You need to try and not think about it too much and just move on to the next shot.”

That mindset, Connor hopes, will lead the pair to where they ultimately want to be: on the professional circuits.

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“Playing against the best players in Europe is the plan for the immediate future, seeing where your game is at, because if you’re competing against the best and competing at that level every week, it really helps your game,” Connor explains, a sentiment his brother echoes.

“Turning professional is something we’ve always wanted to do. Going through school, we’ve always just thought about going to the next stage and turning pro. That’s why you practice and play the way you do, to try and get one step closer to getting on the tour.

“If you can’t compete in the biggest events at an amateur level, you can’t really be competing at any professional level. You just need to be building up in stages. The biggest thing is just playing a lot of golf. We want to try and play more on the Tartan Pro Tour and, hopefully, get some invites to different events. It’s all about getting experience in these events and to see where you need to get your level to.

“If you keep improving your game, step-by-step, and you don’t quit, you’ll get to the top eventually. It’s just about moving in the right direction, and eventually you’ll get where you want to be.”

Expectations might be high for the Graham brothers but, to them, the oldest cliché in golf applies: they’re just taking it one shot at a time.

Connor And Gregor Graham Blairgowrie Brothers

This feature first appeared in issue 198 of bunkered magazine. To subscribe to bunkered, click here.

author headshot

Lewis Fraser As bunkered’s Performance Editor, Lewis oversees the content that’s designed to make you a better player. From the latest gear to tuition, nutrition, strategy and more, he’s the man. A graduate of the University of Stirling, Lewis joined bunkered in 2021. Formerly a caddie at Castle Stuart Golf Links, he is a member of Bathgate Golf Club where he plays off four.

Performance Editor

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