McGeady ready for take off

By Brian Keogh

Big Mick McGeady might hate flying but the Derry boy is still determined to "take off" on the Challenge Tour this year.

The second tier circuit has already taken him to exotic locations from Kazakhstan and Colombia to Costa Rica and Kenya.

And while he doesn't care where he wins, the former amateur ace would love to rack up his first pro victory in Ireland in August.

McGeady, 28, finished second in the Ireland Ryder Cup Challenge in Killarney in just his fourth professional start last year.

And he's determined to go one better this term when the Challenge Tour touches down at Glasson Golf Hotel and Country Club on the banks of Lough Ree in Co Westmeath.

He said: "Killarney was my just my fourth tournament on the Challenge Tour and it was a great experience. It was great to be in the thick of things the whole time and being stay in contention.

"Even though I didn't win, I was very proud of myself. I thought I played very, very well and I was hoping to take that form into the next few events but never really capitalise on it. I don't know what happened."

McGeady scorched around testing Mahony's Point in 18 under par but finished just a shot behind John Wade after a costly bogey at the 72nd hole.

But with the help of his management group Horizon Sports, the former Irish international believes he has all the weapons at his disposal to earn his European Tour card a join Padraig Harrington on the main tour.

He said: "The goal is to finish in the top 20 on the Challenge Tour money list this year and get my tour card that way.

"I finished 91st last year after playing just seven event so hopefully I can do better now that I can play closer to 30 tournaments.

"The standard on the Challenge Tour hasn't surprised me, it's just that the better golf just gets played a lot more often.

"There is good golf and bad golf but you need to play four rounds of good golf to win. There is no case of winning the tournament with one bad round.

"Every time you tee it up you have just got to play well and just go out with that mindset."

One of the most powerful players in Irish golf, McGeady never won a major amateur title.

But he has a knack for going low as he proved when shooting rounds of 66, 63, 66 and 67 in Killarney.

And that fearlessness could prove vital on a second tier circuit that has proved to be a breeding ground for European Tour winners.

Former Challenge Tour players have won 172 times on the European Tour since 1992 with Michael Campbell's US Open and Henrik Stenson's WGC Accenture Match Play title the pick of the bunch.

McGeady is only starting out on that road but he already feels that he has learnt a lot after travelling all over the globe for the past 12 months.

He said: "I can see how it is difficult for people being away from their family. I wouldn't be the greatest flier in the world.

"But I have been to see so fantastic places. I don't think I would ever have been to Kazakhstan if it hadn't been for this Challenge Tour. It's fantastic.

"I was in Mexico City before Christmas and Colombia just after Christmas. But I was nervous going to Colombia. But when I got there, it was just the most beautiful place."

Michael Hoey's Challenge Tour victory in Italy last week has shown McGeady that titles are there for the taking.

And he hopes to use Hoey's win as a springboard to that elusive maiden title on the Challenge Tour circuit this season.

McGeady added: "Michael's win brings it home. If he can do it, we can do it. That win last week was great for Irish golf. It was just the boost we needed to get things kick-started.

"We'll have a few more Irish winners this year and I am hoping I can do just as well this year."

McGeady has a string of sponsors picking up the tab for his globetrotting lifestyle.

And he paid tribute to Horizon Sports and his agent Conor Ridge for securing sponsorship deals worth a massive €54,000 this year.

With €15,000 from the Team Ireland Golf Trust, €17,000 from Irish Life and €22,000 from Derry based financial company McCambridge and Duffy, McGeady does not have to worry about expenses.

He said: "My expenses are covered by my sponsors, so I am lucky in that respect. But I wouldn't have got that money had it not been for Horizon.

"It is a big, big help. And I have to thank Conor and Colin Morrissey for taking me under their wing."