Outrage in the PGA Irish Region — "It's all a huge offensive joke"

Michael McGeady congratulates Niall Kearney on his win in the Irish Professional Championship at Adare Manor. Sunday 5th October 2014. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ie

Never mind Ted Bishop getting fired as President of the PGA of America for his Twitter outburst earlier this week. It appears trouble brewing close to home with some members of the Irish Region of the PGA believed to be outraged by a rule change with major repercussions.

According to our sources, there is real anger amongst some of our leading PGA professionals over what appears to be a move to allow players who are not full members of the PGA to have their results count in the Order of Merit.

Click here for final Irish Region Order of Merit for 2014 (PDF)

If they are allowed to count, they can claim tournament exemptions at the expense of fully trained and qualified PGA members.

We're told that in a major change of policy, which is being vigorously resisted by the members, players in the TP category (tour players of all ills with no formal PGA qualifications) who normally do no count in the Irish Region's Order of Merit (OOM), will now be eligible for all the playing benefits.

For example, the Top 3 in the OOM contest the PGA Play-offs while the Top-8 earn automatic entry into the Irish Open every year.

No-one from the PGA Irish Region — secretary Michael McCumiskey nor several leading members — was available to clarify the situation late last night.

If the news is confirmed, it's a boost for non-PGA qualified Irish players who struggle to get invitations for the Irish Open. But it's a blow to the regular club professional, who feels he is not competition on a level playing field with full time tournament players or whatever level and is being denied the chance to take up exemptions awarded specifically to boost the PGA club pros.

Mike Counihan (Club President, Adare Manor) presents Donal Gleeson (Old Conna) with third prize during in the 104th Irish PGA Championship at Adare Manor Golf Club on Sunday 5th October 2014. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ie

In answer to a query over the absence of 2013 Irish PGA winner Michael McGeady from the 2014 Irish Open, the PGA Irish Region clarified the position of players (like McGeady), who do not hold the PGA qualification:

"Michael McGeady can never win any points that enables him to gain any access to any activity outside of playing in our events whilst he is in either TP1, TP2 or TP3 Category."

As it turned out, Europro Tour member McGeady finished second in the irish Region's final Order of Merit this year to another player with TP status, newly crowned Irish PGA champion Niall Kearney, who is a Challenge Tour player.

In a triple whammy, former Challenge Tour regular Colm Moriarty was third. Moriarty is also in the TP category.

In previous years, neither Kearney, McGeady nor Moriarty would be eligible to take the Top-3 spots officially as they are not fully qualified PGA professionals.

But all three are listed on the PGA website in the field for next week's Titleist PGA Play Offs at Antalya Golf Club- PGA Sultan Course

The 24-man event features the leading players from the Orders of Merit in the eight PGA Regions with the top three finishers qualifying for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the GB&I team for the 2015 PGA Cup match against the leading US clubs professionals in California. (The "Conditions of Eligibility, Selection and Qualification" for the PGA Cup state that "the 2015 GB&I PGA Cup Team consists of a team of 10 Qualified PGA Members."

"Qualified PGA Members" are presumably players who have completed their PGA training. And this is the root of the problem - the division betweem "tour" players and qualified club professionals.

Not only are the Top-3 from the Irish Region's Order of Merit elibigle for Turkey, the Top-8 qualify automatically for the Irish Open at Royal County Down next May.

Whatever about the players ranked fourth to sixth in the money list missing out on what they assumed would be an automatic spot in Turkey —  Michael McDermott, Brendan McGovern and John Kelly — there's also a knock on effect for RCD.

Assuming Kearney, McGeady and Moriarty would be ruled ineligible, the players ranked ninth to 11th in the Order of Merit believed they had quallified for the 2015 Irish Open when the money list was finalised following the Irish Professional Championship at Adare Manor earlier this month.

Barring a reverse of this move, Monkstown's Cian McNamara, Cahir Park's David Ryan and Old Conna's Donal Gleeson (delighted to clinch his Irish Open place by finishing third in the Irish PGA) may have to put dreams of a round with Rory McIlroy in Newcastle on hold.

"It's all a huge offensive joke," said one Irish PGA professional of a decision that appears to have come down from PGA Headquarters at The Belfry

Whatever is eventually decided, this re-opens the debate over the right of Irish professionals who have not trained but dedicated most of their time to trying to make it onto a major tour to enjoy the benefits traditionally available only to qualified club pros.

The respected St Margaret's professional John Kelly, vice chairman of the Region, explained his point of view in eloquent fashion when asked about the ineligibility of TP category players from the Order of Merit route into the Irish Open. (Read his remarks in full here)

"Those guys [who are complaining] can join the PGA, sign up and do their time the same as we all did and get into the event as well," Kelly said.  They are not barred from getting in through the PGA. They are very welcome to join the PGA and do their 25 hours a week in the shop as every other PGA member has done. And then if they want to take a place in the Order of Merit, the place is there for them.

"If they want to concentrate on playing full time, there are lots of other ways for them to get into the event."