Niall Turner feared his career would be cut short by injury not once but three times in the last four years.
Now, following his impressive fifth-place finish in the Venetian Macao Open on the Asian tour on Sunday, the 32-year old Corkman believes his career can finally start all over again.
The past few years have been a nightmare for the Muskerry Golf Club talent, who first rose to fame in 2007 when he reached the final of the Irish Amateur Close Championship at Cork Golf Club only to fall to current world No 18 Shane Lowry by 4&3.
The career paths of Lowry and Turner have run in opposite directions since they turned professional in 2008 as Turner struggled with injury from the word go with hip and back problems, leaving him sidelined for long periods.
But having shown his talent by leading in the final round of the Challenge Tour’s Northern Ireland Open in August, he added a four-under 67 to previous rounds of 70, 68 and 67 to finish fifth at the Macau Golf and Country Club.
He was eight strokes behind winner Scott Hend of Australia but the cheque for $41,000 — a career best — saw him soar from 119th to 49th in the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, guaranteeing him starts in every event on the schedule for the remainder of the season.
Looking forward to the future now, Turner said: “The last four years have been a nightmare to be honest and I was looking at having to retire on three separate occasions.
“There have been some incredible lows in there which makes this week all the sweeter. To have come back from all that stronger for it and with my game better than ever feels fantastic.
“It was a great week and while I was pretty much guaranteed the rest of the events anyway, I needed a big finish to get well up the money list to make sure.
“I’ve two weeks off now and then start back up in Asia in India and play seven events in a row to finish the year. I can’t wait.”
With the European Tour and the Asian Tour about to announce what amounts to a merger, creating a rest-of-the-world tour, Turner may well get even more starts.
His comeback would not have been possible without a lot of help. And that’s why he’s so grateful to the Team Ireland Golf Trust for a €10,000 grant and all that comes with it.
“The Team Ireland support has been vital, both financially and with the services provided at the Irish Institute of Sport,” Turner said, referring to the network of service providers such as physiologists, sports psychologists, biomechanists, physiotherapists and doctors at Abbotstown.
“I started working with Johnny Foster as my coach years ago and my game has come on a huge amount since then.
“My physio Sarah Jane McDonnell, my sports psychologist Tadgh McIntyre and my strength trainer Noel Murphy have been a huge help.
“I have a really good team around me that have helped me through everything.”
Turner’s partner Rachel Hallinan has played a key role too and the couple plan to tie the knot next year.
“Obviously my family and friends and my fiancée have been the biggest help, especially my fiancée,” he said.
“She has been through it all with me over the last few years and she caddied for me this week which made it extra special.
“After all the injuries, I’ve had a long time waiting to get back out here.”
If the standard of his golf in Macau is any indication, Turner may yet prove to be a spectacular late bloomer.
The ‘Haven’s’ Tommy is a talent worth watching
Castlehaven might have been held by Nemo in the Cork Senior Football Championship on Sunday but the parish, with a population of just 1,100, doesn’t just produce footballers.
Teenager Tommy O’Driscoll, whose father Tom and uncle Mikey were part of the meteoric rise of the Castlehaven team in the 1970s, is slowly developing into an impressive golfer.
Having represented ‘the Haven’ at underage level, football’s loss was clearly golf’s gain as 6ft 3in O’Driscoll goes from strength to strength with his clubs.
As a 15-year old, he topped the Munster Order of Merit and was chosen by the Irish selectors to represent his country in the Boys’ Home Internationals last year. Having finished runner-up in the Leinster Boys, he won the Ulster Boys Championship the following week and finished in the Top 10 in all the Irish boys events.
He was rewarded with a place on the Home Internationals and European Boys teams and finished the year by entering the Alps Tour Q-School as an amateur, securing a Category 8 card.
Still an amateur, he finished 11th in only his second start earlier this year and reached the top 1100 in the world amateur golf rankings.
Based in Paris for much of the year — his father Thomas owns a golf course there — the 19-year-old is now one of the top 25 ranked Irish amateurs in the world.
He has no intention of joining the professional ranks just yet but plans to continue to build on his achievements until he’s good enough to make it.
Like Castlehaven’s GAA battlers, he has surprised a few along the way and given what he’s achieved so far, he’s a talent well worth watching.
Olivia on fire as she bids goodbye to junior ranks
Olivia Mehaffey said goodbye to the junior ranks with an astounding 16-shot win in the Telegraph BMW Junior Championship at Quinta do Lago at the weekend.
The world No 16 finished on six-under-par 210, adding a 69 to previous rounds of 71 and 70 with Eloise Healy second on 10-over 226. Mehaffey retained the Irish Girls Strokeplay title this year and then made it three wins on the spin with victories in the Scottish and Welsh Open Amateur Strokeplay championships.
Winner of the LGU’s Order of Merit, which guarantees her an exemption into next year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, Mehaffey is looking forward to playing for Arizona State University late next year. Still, she was happy just to win in Portugal after making three bogeys early in her final round.
“Whatever lead you have, it feels like everyone is breathing down your neck,” said Mehaffey, who had an eight-shot lead with a round to go. “I was shaky after those bogeys but managed to relax and enjoy the back nine.
“I looked at the honours board the other day and to win alongside the other girls is such an honour. It’s a great event and I’m really grateful to be a sponsors’ invite and win it. It’s my last ever junior competition and I put my year down to the hard work over the winter.”
Hume and Moynihan sparkle
Winter golf is as popular as ever which is why Seapoint Golf Links has launched a new Winter Series for professionals and amateurs that will help them keep their games sharp.
Supported by Titleist/ Footjoy Ireland, the weekly events began yesterday and will run each Monday until the end of March.
Open to professionals or amateurs with a handicap of 10 or less, the entry fee is €30 for amateur players and €25 for professionals with cash prizes for professionals determined by the number of entries.
To book a tee time, contact David Carroll at the Seapoint Pro Shop on 041 9822333.
Meanwhile, Walker Cup partners Jack Hume and Gavin Moynihan were back in the winner’s circle at Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links last week.
Playing off plus-four, Naas ace Hume won the best nett with a 68 as rookie professional Moynihan played off scratch and edged out Naas’s Robert Brazill on a countback for second spot with a 69.
In the gross, there was success for three members of the Irish panel with Hermitage’s Rowan Lester firing a six-under 65 to see off Naas’ Conor O’Rourke and Ardee’s Eugene Smith by four strokes.
Castlemartyr Links plays host to Winter Alliance
Castlemartyr Links is the venue for the Cork Winter Golf Alliance event that will take place on Sunday, November 8.
The competition is open to handicaps 0-9, and there will be prizes for both gross and nett categories for an entry fee of €40 per person.
Members of the PGA and plus handicap golfers will play off scratch while golfers with handicaps higher than nine are welcome but must play off nine.
Prepayment is essential to ensure that the event goes ahead and cash and credit card payments will be accepted.
To enter, contact Dave on 086-0459341 or Niall on 087-6221111.
You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. The first tee time is 10am, and times will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
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