Sunday, May 19, 2024

McKibbin to host NI Open at Galgorm as he continues to chase PGA Tour dream – News – Irish Golf Desk

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Tom McKibbin grew up being hailed as the next Rory McIlroy but he insists that ignoring the hype and doing his own thing is the secret to his transformation from boy wonder into DP World Tour star.

The Holywood tyro (21) has made such a meteoric rise in the game that the Challenge Tour announced on Tuesday he is officially supporting The NI Open, presented by Tom McKibbin, at Galgorm in Ballymena from July 25-28.

“It’s pretty special,” McKibbin said. “When Gary Henry came to me at the end of the year and suggested the idea, it was something I was very keen on straight away.

“It’s a tournament I’ve played quite a few times, which is also pretty cool.”
The £250,000 event will be one of the elevated tournaments on this year’s European Challenge Tour schedule and McKibbin, who will play the Pro-Am on July 23, has plenty of sound advice for the Irish players looking to follow in his footsteps.

“You definitely have to be selfish in a way and try and do your own thing,” said the Galgorm touring professional, who won the Porsche European Open in his rookie season on the DP World Tour last year and is now on track to win one of ten PGA Tour cards via the Race to Dubai.

“You have to really knuckle down, stick the head down just to get off that tour because there are so many good players. You have to love to do your own thing, not get caught up with everybody and invest in yourself, really.  

“It’s all about getting to the highest levels. You can’t get there doing everything sort of half-assed. You really have to work hard for it, take a lot of time and give it your all.”

McKibbin, who first played in The NI Open as a 13-year-old in 2016, has been dealing with high expectations from an early age, including being dubbed the next Rory McIlroy.

“It didn’t really affect me,” he said of the McIlroy comparisons. “I’ve heard them for so long, I’ve probably just gotten used to it.

“It doesn’t even bother me. I don’t read much written about me, so I couldn’t care less. Honestly, when I was younger, I thought it was quite a cool thing to be compared to Rory. It was quite special, so it didn’t really put too much pressure on me.  

“It doesn’t really faze me or anything. I guess it’s cool to be compared to Rory and things like that. So I probably just took it in my stride and got on with it. If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out.”

Winning the European Open as a 20-year-old made him Irish golf’s youngest tour winner since McIlroy and after racking up ten cheques, including three top-10s, from his first 11 starts this term, he’s excited about having the chance to win promotion to the PGA Tour.

“I wouldn’t say I set goals but obviously I’d love to win and be contending,”  said the Newtownabbey native, who is 21st in the Race to Dubai and 140th in the world.

“But now that they have those ten PGA Tour cards, it’s definitely high up there as well to get one of those. It’s all about playing good golf for the rest of the year and seeing where it leaves me.

“It would be pretty cool to get over there and play in the States. I watched all those golf tournaments growing up and potentially to be playing in them is pretty cool.”

He added: “There’s no pressure at all. (If it doesn’t happen) I’ll still be here next year with a good schedule to play and plenty of events. It’s not like the end of the world. Obviously, it would be great, but if it doesn’t happen this year, it doesn’t happen this year.”

As for The NI Open, he reckons the field is set for a tough test at a great venue.

“I feel like Galgorm deserves to have a big event there every year,” he said. “The stuff they do to the course every year, making so many improvements and changes, just makes it better.”

Pictured above, DP World Tour winner and Galgorm Touring Professional Tom McKibbin has given his full support to the new NI Open. (Photo: Padraig Lynch)

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