Turner prize a joy to see; late bloomer creates Asian Tour opportunity

Niall Turner. Picture @ AsianTour.com

Niall Turner feared his career would be cut short by injury not once but three times in the last four years.

Now, following his impressive fifth place finish in the Venetian Macao Open on the Asian Tour on Sunday, the 32-year old Corkman believes his career can finally start all over again.

The past few years have been a nightmare for the Muskerry Golf Club talent, who first rose to fame in 2007 when he reached the final of the Irish Amateur Close Championship at Cork Golf Club only to fall to current world No 18 Shane Lowry by 4 and 3.

The career paths of Lowry and Turner have run in opposite directions since they turned professional with Lowry winning the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur to get off to the best possible start as Turner struggled with injury from the word go with hip and back problems leaving him sidelined for long periods.

But having shown his talent by leading in the final round of the Challenge Tour’s Northern Ireland Open in August only to slip to 12th, he added a four under 67 to previous rounds of 70, 68 and 67 to finish fifth at the Macau Golf and Country Club.

He was eight strokes behind winner Scott Hend of Australia but the cheque for $41,000 — a career best — saw him soar from 119th to 49th in the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, guaranteeing him starts in every event on the schedule for the remainder of the season.

Looking forward to the future now, Turner said: “The last four years have been a nightmare to be honest and I was looking at having to retire on three separate occasions. 

“There have been some incredible lows in there which makes this week all the sweeter. To have come back from all that stronger for it and with my game better than ever feels fantastic. 

Niall Turner. Picture @ AsianTour.com

“I'm fully fit now and finally have all the injuries sorted so I am just looking forward. The result is a career starter for me really with all that I will get from it so really looking forward to the rest of the year.

“It was a great week and while I was pretty much guaranteed the rest of the events anyway, I needed a big finish to get well up the money list to make sure.

“I've two weeks off now and then start back up in Asia in India and play seven events in a row to finish the year. I can’t wait.”

Turner’s goal for 2015 was to finish inside the top 30 on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, which would get him to 10 starts in events co-sanction by the European Tour in 2016.

With the European Tour and the Asian Tour about to announce what amounts to a merger, creating Rest of the World Tour, Turner may well get even more starts.

His comeback would not have been possible without a lot of help. And that’s why he’s so grateful to the Team Ireland Gofl Trust for €10,000 grant and all that comes with it.

“The Team Ireland support has been vital, both financially and with the services provided at the Irish Institute of Sport,” Turner said, referring to the network of service providers such as physiologists, sports psychologists, biomechanists, physiotherapists and doctors at Abbotstown. “I’ve had lots of help from so many people around me.

“I started working with Johnny Foster as my coach years ago and my game has come on a huge amount since then. 

“My physio Sarah Jane McDonnell, my sports psychologist Tadgh MacIntyre and my strength trainer Noel Murphy have been a huge help. I have a really good team around me that have helped me through everything.”

Turner’s fiancée Rachel Hallinan, has played a key role too and the couple plan to tie the knot next year.

“Obviously my family and friends and my fiancée have been the biggest help, especially my fiancée,” he said. “She has been through it all with me over the last few years and she caddied for me this week which made it extra special. 

“I think she’s already looking for her percentage! She’s a Dub which makes for some interesting game days but the big one is the wedding on June 4 next year and we are so looking forward to that.

“After all the injuries, I’ve had a long time waiting to get back out here.”

If the standard of his golf in Macau is any indication, Turner may yet prove to be a spectacular late bloomer.

Killarney's Tommy O'Driscoll, picture during the 2015 Boys Interpros. Picture: Pat Cashman

Watch out for Tommy boy

Castlehaven might have been held by Nemo Rangers in the Cork Senior Football Championship on Sunday but the parish with a population of just 1,100 doesn’t just produce footballers.

Teenager Tommy O’Driscoll, whose father Tom and uncle Mikey were part of the mercurial rise of the Castlehaven team In the 1970s, is slowly developing into an impressive golfer.

Having represented “the ‘Haven” at underage level, football’s loss was clearly golf’s gain as 6”3’ O’Driscoll goes from strength to strength with his clubs.

As a 15-year old, he topped the Munster Order of Merit and was recognised by the Irish selectors in being chosen to represent his country in the Boys Hoime Internationals

Last year, having finished runner up in the Leinster Boys, he won the Ulster Boys Championship the following week and finished in the Top-10 in all the Irish boys events.

He was rewarded with a place on the Home Internationals and European Boys teams and finished the year by entering the Alps Tour Q-School as an amateur, securing a Category 8 card.

Still an amateur, he finished 11th in only his second start earlier this year and reached the top 1100 in the world amateur golf rankings.

Based in Paris for much of the year — his father Thomas owns a golf course there — the 19-year old is now one of the top 25 ranked Irish amateurs in the world.

He has no intention of joining the professional ranks just yet but plans to continue to build on his achievements until he’s good enough to make it.

Like Castehaven’s GAA battlers, he has surprised a few along the way and given what he’s achieved so far, he’s a talent well worth watching.

Cork Winter Alliance

Castlemartyr Links is the venue for the Cork Winter Alliance event that will take place on Sunday 8th November. 

The competition is open to handicaps 0-9, and there will be prizes for both gross and nett categories for an entry fee of €40 per person. 

Members of the PGA and plus handicap golfers will play off scratch while golfers with handicaps higher than nine are welcome but must play off nine.

Pre-payment is essential to ensure that the event goes ahead and cash and credit card payments will be accepted. 

To enter, contact Dave on 086-0459341 or Niall on 087-6221111. You can also email niall@corkgolfnews.com

The first tee time is 10am, and times will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.