All the news and happenings from the local golf clubs

Des Ballintine and Mark Kilgore at Portstewart Golf Club.
Des Ballintine and Mark Kilgore at Portstewart Golf Club.
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Kearney sets sights on pro caree

Castlerock’s Aaron Kearney has decided to join the paid ranks, bypassing the opportunity to play in the British Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.

The 27-year-old, a UUJ graduate, was tempted to hang on until after the tournament in June but instead will try to qualify for the EuroPro Tour in March.

“I feel I have got enough out of the amateur game, especially after getting to the last 16 of the British Amateur last year,” said Aaron, who represented Ireland in the 2011 Home Internationals.

“That gave me a lot of belief that I could compete against the best amateurs.

“I got beaten by the eventual winner, Garrick Porteous.

“I think that was the moment I seriously thought about moving on to the next level.

“I also got to the final of Open qualifying at Musselburgh. I was playing with these professionals and was nervous as hell, worried that my game would not stack up to theirs but after a couple of holes, I was scoring better than them.”

He added, “I was thinking of hanging on for the British Amateur at Royal Portrush because I was automatically into the field after doing well last year but I just thought there would be far too much expectation around your home track.

“I did well in the tournament last year, and I was content with what I got out of it. I was not prepared to wait around for one event.”

Kearney will be affiliated to West Middlesex Golf Club from now on and has been lucky enough to secure some financial backing through his uncle, Michael McCormack, who has a connection with the club

He has been a big help in my career to this stage and he has got together with a group of eight businessmen to give me some backing,” Kearney said.

“I will head to Spain in February to play a few Evolve Tour events and then home for EuroPro Tour qualifying in March and April and then take it from there.”

ballycastle golf club

The P.J. McIlroy & Son sponsored Winter League at Ballycastle moved into week four with some testing conditions on both days.

On Saturday the Section One scores couldn’t have been closer, Ryan Brewster (13), Philip Cullen (13) and Gerry McGouran (12) all returned 26 points in tough conditions. Ryan Brewster secured 1st place with a fine back nine of 22 points, including two birdies on the 10th and 18th holes to push Philip Cullen into second place. Gerry McGouran secured third place for the second week running.

Section Two saw the best scores of the weekend, with Sean McLean taking pole position.

The Dunloy man claimed first place with a strong total of 32 points off his 23 handicap to finish four points clear of the nearest challenger, James McCann (25) who scored 28 points. Terence McHugh was pushed just outside the prizes by virtue of James finishing with a better back nine score.

Sunday’s weather had a severe impact on the number of competitors and resulted in many golfers choosing not to brave the strong winds.

However Ryan Twaddle (17) endured the conditions and claimed the days only prize with a fine 30 points.

The Midweek Stableford was won by Vincent Gallagher (8) with 35 points over 18 holes.

MICHAEL BEATS THE

WEATHER FOR WIN

In very testing conditions at Portstewart on Saturday Michael Kilgore produced a super round of golf to win the sweep with 31 points.

That bettered his handicap of sixteen by three and kept him one clear of the rest. Very steady scoring was the method for the opening seven holes with three points being winkled out of the long par four fifth and two from each of the others to get 15 on the card at the turn.

Both par fives on the back seven were downwind and this allowed Michael to have a go at them, with great success as he birdied both to boost the score by eight points.

Two double bogeys to finish meant a bit of a sweat until the count showed he had a one point win from Geoff Brown on 30 points.

Geoff started badly with no points from the opening hole. A few good pars helped the recovery and it was completed when he knocked in a birdy four on the seventh and it was exceeded by another birdy, a three this time, on nine. !6 points from the six holes he scored at was not too shaky.

The back seven was steady but just one three pointer was evident, a birdy four on thirteen, and Geoff had to settle for 14 back to get his total up to 30 for second place.

JIM MAKES A SPLASH

AT THE PORT

In absolutely soaking conditions Jim Fleming pulled 34 points from his fourteen hole round at Portstewart on Saturday to win the weekly sweep.

The eleven handicapper had a five over par round and didn’t drop a shot on the back seven at all, and that was during the wettest portion of the day! His opening birdy three got the machine rolling with four points the reward. Jim’s only wobble came with two one point holes, seven and eight, which limited the front seven tally to fifteen points.

Seven straight pars gave up another 19 to the card which took Jim to 34 to beat the Club Captain, Mark Windebank, by a point. Not sure if that was a wise move but there it was.

Mark scored 33 from his handicap of two, no mean feat while playing with Paddy McAleese! Birdies were logged at the long seventh and the par four ninth to help Mark to 17 points out. He was able to pick up four points via his birdie three on eleven and took another birdy from the fourteenth to get 16 points out of the back half of the course.

That 33 points tally was two better than early starter Mike Nicholl on 31. He failed to register a score on the eighth but had 13 points gathered at the turn to stay in with a chance.

Mike dropped just two shots coming in and that amounted to 18 back for his third place 31.

GMAC TEES OFF FOR TOURISM

Golf and tourism operators from Northern Ireland and the island of attending this week’s PGA Golf Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida, got a massive boost when golfing hero Graeme McDowell stopped off at the Tourism Ireland stand, to lend his support for Tourism Ireland’s 2014 promotional drive and to do his bit to grow golf tourism to Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland this year.

The PGA Show in Orlando is one of the biggest golf exhibitions in the US, attracting more than 40,000 golf professionals and enthusiasts, as well as around 1,000 influential golf journalists, each year – providing a fantastic platform to highlight our world-class golf.

Alison Metcalfe, head of North America, said: “We were delighted that Graeme McDowell took the time to drop by our stand at the PGA Show in Orlando. The American golf market remains a priority for Tourism Ireland in 2014 and we will continue to promote the island of Ireland as a top golf destination, capitalising on the global success of our golfers including Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke.

Golf is the world’s largest sports-related travel market and Tourism Ireland is working hard to drive home the message that a golfing holiday in Ireland is about much more than a round of 18 holes – the combination of our world-class golf and our unique brand of hospitality plays a key role in attracting American golfers to visit.”

Tourism Ireland is rolling out an extensive programme of promotions in the all-important United States market this year. The organisation will have a presence at a number of other high profile golf events throughout 2014, including the PGA Barclays tournament at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey and the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, both in August.

Key American golf journalists will be invited to visit, to experience our fantastic golf for themselves; and ads will run on the popular Golf Channel, online on golfchannel.com and in specialist golf publications.

Clarke misses 500th tour event

Darren Clarke missed out on a momentous occasion last week due to injury.

The 2011 British Open champion, due to tee it up for the 500th time on the European Tour at the Qatar Masters in Doha, was forced to withdraw with a chest muscle injury. Plans by European Tour officials to make a special presentation to Clarke (45) on the tee were shelved.

Clarke, who lost 40-plus pounds during a winter fitness campaign, sustained the injury practising on the range at Doha after Tuesday’s Pro-Am.

He next plays at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles as he switches his focus to the US PGA circuit. Clarke’s 500th European Tour appearance will be in April’s Masters, while he’s not scheduled to play this side of the Atlantic before May’s BMW PGA.

Clarke has been working hard over the winter and looks slimmer yet feels stronger than he has for years, courtesy of a comprehensive diet and exercise programme drawn up by a Dublin fitness guru.

Clarke has lost six inches off his waist and dropped several shirt sizes, leading to a complete wardrobe change and a bonanza for his local Oxfam shop.