Aaron Kearney turns pro: "It's now or never"

Aaron Kearney turns pro: "It's now or never"
 Castlerock's Aaron Kearney has decided to try his luck in the professional ranks. Picture: Pat Cashman /  www.cashmanphotography.ie

Castlerock's Aaron Kearney has decided to try his luck in the professional ranks. Picture: Pat Cashman / www.cashmanphotography.ie

Castlerock's Aaron Kearney has decided to bite the bullet and pursue a career in the professional ranks.

The 27-year old Architectural Technology graduate could have been forgiven for waiting until the end of the summer before making the move as  the British Amateur Championship will played at his home track as well as Royal Portrush in June.

But with time marching on, the former Ireland international believes the time is right to take the plunge. And while some might consider him a veritable old hand, the UUJ graduate feels he is a young 27 having only started to take the game seriously during his university days.

“That's when it all properly kicked off for me," said Kearney, who reached the last 16 of the British Amateur last year when he lost to eventual champion Garrick Porteous.  

“Then I got introduced to the idea of regular coaching - playing university matches - and I got introduced to the competitive side of things by Johnny Foster.

“I actually think my golfing age is about three years younger than my actual age, if that makes any sense. The likes of Alan Dunbar and Paul Cutler have been playing golf from no age at all, winning representative honours at Boys level. 

"I never had any of that. I played no Boys, hardly any Youths and I had no coaching - none of that support."

While there are no golfers in his family, Kearney's father bought him his first set up clubs when he was 12 years old and he took his first steps in the game at Roe Park before moving to Castlerock during his college days.

He payed soccer at Senior level with Limavady United FC until he was 19 before the golfing bug bit hard and he got his handicap down to scratch at the age of 22.

 Aaron Kearney studies the line of a putt on the final day of the 2013 Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin. Picture: Pat Cashman /  www.cashmanphotography.ie

Aaron Kearney studies the line of a putt on the final day of the 2013 Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin. Picture: Pat Cashman / www.cashmanphotography.ie

Within two years he was contending for top honours on the Irish amateur scene, winning scratch cups at Rosapenna, City of Derry and Roe Park before finishing joint runner up to Cutler in the 2011 Irish Amateur Close at Shannon, the first year of the strokeplay experiment.

He went on toe reach the semi-finals of that year's North of Ireland Championship, losing to eventual runner up Harry Diamond, and went on to win Interprovincial and International honours that season as well as a trip to Bethpage State Park in New York to take on the Metropolitan Golf Association.

He regained his place on the Ulster team last season having played brilliantly in the British Amateur Championship at Royal Cinque Ports, where he reached the last 16. Later last season he reached Local Final Qualifying for The Open Championship but while he missed out on a spot at Muirfield, his performance in the Amateur convinced him that he was good enough to give the professional game a go.

“If someone had said to me in 2010 that I would get to last 16 of the British Amateur, I'd have told them to catch themselves on," Kearney said this week. "It's now or never. I have that urge to try and make a living from the game.

“I was thinking of hanging on for the British Amateur at Royal Portrush and Portstewart 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 thought I had done 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.

"Reaching the last 16 last year gave me a lot of belief. It told me that I could compete against the best amateurs. I got beaten by the eventual winner, Garrick Porteous, so 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 The Musselburgh. I was playing with these professionals, 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."

While Kearney is currently without a regular coach, he is seeing the highly respected Seamus Duffy on and off and working regularly with "Mind Factor" coach Shaun McGonagle on his mental game.

“During the season I don't really see anyone apart from Shaun," he said. “I concentrate on playing golf rather than concentrate on swing thoughts and technique.

“I feel if my mind is in the right place, if I'm relaxed with no expectations, then I will play my best golf.”

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."

While there will be five Challenge Tour cards up for grabs for the top money winners on the EuroPro Tour, the Castlerock man has set his sights on the season-ending European Tour Q-School and a shot at the big time.

As he says himself, it's now or never.