Ballyliffin’s Thomas Kearney has been handed a dream invitation to tee it up in this week’s Valero Texas Open on the PGA Tour.
The 26-year old graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio will make his PGA Tour debut alongside big names Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, John Daly and former Masters champions Zach Johnson, who is bidding to win the title for the third year in a row.
“I’ve been playing Monday qualifiers for Nationwide Tour and PGA Tour this year and trying to get started that way,” said Kearney, who did not have the $5,000 fee to enter last season’s PGA Tour Qualifying School. “My agent and I wrote away for an exemption about a month ago and the tournament director got back to me last week. He liked what he heard and said he had a spot for me.
“This the break I had been looking for and hopefully I can push on from here, finish in the top ten and get into the Byron Nelson Championship here in Texas next week.”
The son of English parents, Kearney moved to Ballyliffin when he was six years old, winning the Ulsters Boys under 15 title in 1998 and the Irish Boys Under 17 crown in 2001.
A former Boys international, he was awarded a golf scholarship by the University of Texas in 2005, graduating with a degree in Business Administration in 2008.
He turned professional that autumn and enjoyed a dream debut when he closed with a 10 under par 62 to win the San Antonio Open with ten shots to spare.
Since then he has divided his time between the mini tours and Monday qualifiers for Nationwide Tour events.
“I haven’t trekked home much in the last few years and the weather is so bad that I end up moping in front of the TV,” he said. “I love it out here and it’s always been my dream to play on the PGA Tour.
“I have an athlete’s visa and having played in quite a few Monday qualifiers and made the field for the second biggest event they have on the Nationwide Tour, I know my game is good enough to compete and win out here.”
Kearney played a handful of Nationwide Tour qualifiers last season, but a bout of pneumonia has hampered his playing plans so far this season. He married in March – his wife Brooke doubles as his mental coach – and feels ready to attack a full schedule of Monday qualifiers.