Six PGA in Ireland professionals will compete at next week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart.
Damien McGrane, David Higgins, Colm Moriarty, Neil O’Briain, Simon Thornton, and Richard Kilpatrick booked their places in the field via the 2016 Order of Merit standings.
It will be a unique experience for Banbridge (Co Down)-based professional Richard Kilpatrick, who, at 35 years old, will be playing in an Irish Open for the first time.
“I can’t wait. The crowds, the buzz, the field that is being assembled. I can’t wait to tee it up, let it go and see what happens. It will be some test,” said Kilpatrick.
“It means a lot to get to play in my first Irish Open at Portstewart. My aunt has a place in the town and I played the course a lot as an amateur. Even now, during the winter and when I can in the summer months I try to get up and play. The club professional, Neil Graham, has been very good in accommodating me.”
Richard spent the best part of eight years playing on the Challenge Tour, Alps Tour and EuroPro Tour before opting to follow the PGA route. He is in the third year of his training and is based at Banbridge GC, working under Jason Greenaway.
“I knew that I wanted to stay involved in golf and for me to do that, the PGA has been a good path,” he added.
“I’m learning a lot both in terms of the technical side and the business side of the game and I’m still getting a chance to play.”
He has performed impressively on the PGA in Ireland circuit in recent seasons, and has two wins to his name in 2017 at the PGA Irish Club Pro-Am and the Ruddy Cup for Young Professionals.
Meanwhile, Stuart Grehan will spearhead the Irish charge for the European Amateur Championship which gets underway at Walton Heath in Surrey this morning.
Tullamore man Grehan is Ireland’s highest ranked player on the world amateur stage at No.45 and is among the first group to tee off.
He finished as the joint-best Irishman at last year’s event in Estonia in tied 26th along with The Island star Paul McBride — who himself is fresh from reaching the quarter-finals of the Amateur Championship at Royal St George’s on the Kent coast last week.
The pair are joined by the four other Irish Walker Cup hopefuls in Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), Alex Gleeson (Castle), Robin Dawson (Tramore) and Conor O’Rourke (Naas).
Conor Purcell (Portmarnock), Jonathan Yates (Naas) and Thomas Mulligan (Laytown & Bettystown) are also on the start sheet for the 72-hole event competing among a world-class 144-man field — which will be cut at 60 and ties after three rounds.
Italian Luca Cianchetti, who won last year, will be aiming to retain his title, but among those looking to wrestle the crown away will be Englishman Harry Ellis — who beat McBride on his way to victory at Royal St George’s last week — and Scott Gregory, the man he succeeded as Amateur champion.
The winner of the European Amateur will not only follow in the footsteps of Rory McIlroy, who won it back in 2006, but will also earn a spot at the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale next month.
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