After a momentous week at The K Club where Rory McIlroy found his old mojo, attentions will quickly turn to another golfing spectacle this summer and the Northern Ireland Open, in partnership with Ulster Bank, where a new Holywood star of the future will tee it up.
With the recent announcement of Modest Golf becoming the Official Golf Management Partner to the Northern Ireland Open, one of their first moves was to invite golfing prodigy Tom McKibbin to compete at Galgorm Castle at the end of July.
The invite came by way of One Direction’s Niall Horan, also a director of Modest Golf Management, during last week’s Irish Open at The K-Club where his good friend McIlroy invited 13-year old McKibbin to play alongside him in the tournament pro-am.
“The next generation of golfers is a huge focus for us as a business,” said Horan. “You need only look at the history of the Challenge Tour to see the calibre of player it produces.
“We’ve heard a lot about the Northern Ireland Open; it’s one of the bigger events, brings in 30-40,000 spectators, which not a lot of Challenge Tour events do. We felt we would like to get involved – and it’s close to home.”
Thanks to Modest Golf, McKibbin will get that chance to compete closer to his Newtownabbey home and alongside the professionals when the European Challenge Tour returns to the Galgorm Castle in Ballymena from July 28-31.
“Tom has clearly got it, he has his head screwed on plus he’s a really nice lad and very mannerly,” added Horan, who is passionate about the game and wants to reach out the next generation.
“It’s a great opportunity for him and hopefully he’ll make the best of it. He seems to shoot low so I’m sure he won’t have a problem. We want to look at young lads like Tom and give them a chance. He’s the future of the game.”
McKibbin is fast-becoming Northern Ireland’s next golfing sensation and has achieved so much in the game already. Earlier this year he won the Junior Honda Classic in Florida plus landed the Under-12 World Championship at Pinehurst, North Carolina last August when he defeated 150 of the world’s top juniors.
The Royal Belfast Academy student is also getting used to rubbing shoulders with the stars of the fairways like his idol and fellow Holywood golfer McIlroy.
There will be a full spectrum of players on show at the NI Open with McKibbin easily the youngest player compared to some of the more seasoned campaigners on show.
With a favourable date on the international playing schedule, former European Tour winners such as Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie and NI Open Tournament Ambassador Michael Hoey will be among the many household names competing at Galgorm.
The week-long festival of golf, combined with the dedicated food festival, promises to serve up something special for all the family. Tickets for the NI Open are free to enter and can be secured by registering online at niopen.golf