PGA Irish Region loses two Irish Open spots - No places for Kearney, Moriarty or McGeady either
Niall Kearney following his win in the Titleist PGA Playoffs in Turkey last year.

Niall Kearney following his win in the Titleist PGA Playoffs in Turkey last year.

He might be welcome in the Titleist PGA Playoffs, the PGA Cup team or even the BMW PGA at Wentworth but last year’s PGA in Ireland Combined Order of Merit winner Niall Kearney will not be getting one of the six spots — a reduction of two on last year — allocated to Irish PGA professionals in next month's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down.

Instead of the top three of Kearney, Colm Moriarty and Michael McGeady, the players ranked fourth to ninth — Michael McDermott, Brendan McGovern (Headfort GC), Damian Mooney (Ballyliffin GC), Neil O'Briain (Old Conna GC), John Kelly (St Margarets GC) and Cian McNamara (Monkstown GC) — will tee it up Royal Co Down from May 28-May 31.

The decision to continue with the tried and tested formula of "PGA qualified pros only" means that the Irish Professional champion could miss the Irish Open for the second successive year with 2014 winner Kearney now reliant on an invitation.

That's nothing new given than 2013 Irish PGA winner McGeady, a TP3 category player, did not get to play at Fota Island last year either.

And while Kearney is the TP2 category as a Challenge Tour player, he's likely to miss out on a place at Royal County Down if a higher ranked Irish player fails to make the field.

As it is, the presence in the Irish Open field of players from Irish Region has been come under the microscope in recent years. As a result, they've had their already reduced allocation cut from eight to six, freeing up coveted spots.

The situation of the PGA Irish Region wasn't helped by some administrative musical chairs and general confusion at the end of last year.

When Kearney topped the "Combined Order of Merit" from fellow non-PGA qualified Moriarty and McGeady, there was outrage among the PGA qualified pros when the PGA at the Belfry ignored or went over the head of the PGA Irish Region in Dundalk and allocted the three Irish places in the Titleist PGA Playoffs in Turkey to the three unqualified players.

Meetings were held and threats were made and in the end, a compromise was reached and the next three on the Irish Order of Merit were added to the field for Turkey — McDermott, McGovern and Mooney.

The three non-PGA players perfectly understood the annoyance of the fully qualified PGA men but both Moriarty and McGeady were a little put out to arrive in Turkey and be told that, as TP3 category players, they would not be eligible to win exemptions for the BMW PGA at Wentworth or a series of Challenge Tour events.

As it turned out, Kearney won the elite, 28-man event at Antalya Golf Club and with it a place in the GB&I PGA Cup team to play the cream of the PGA of America at CordeValle Golf Club in California from September 18-20. He also won a place in the European Tour's €5 million flagship BMW PGA at Wentworth, which takes place the week before the Irish Open.

Indeed, we understand that the decision by the Belfry to allow the TP category players such as Kearney, Moriarty, McGeady and David Dixon to tee it up in Turkey was made to boost the potential strength of the GB&I PGA Cup team.

Michael McDermott will make his Irish Open debut at Royal County Down

Michael McDermott will make his Irish Open debut at Royal County Down

The presence of Irish club pros in the Irish Open field is clearly desirable. But how many of them should get the right to play against some of the best players on the planet is debatable.

As it is, they feel they are being squeezed out having had their Irish Open allocation reduced drastically over the last decade or so.

Whatever about the future, there will be six top Irish PGA professionals at Royal County Down this year with 34-year old McDermott making his debut.

As the Irish Region reported in a press release issued by Paul Kelly on Monday, he will join McGovern, Mooney, O'Briain, Kelly and McNamara at Royal County Down from May 28-31.

“I suppose it's a reward for last year's efforts,” said Dublin native McDermott. “With Rory [McIlroy] promoting the Irish Open this year it is turning into a massive event. It should be really good and it's something to look forward to.”
Michael played 28 times on the Irish circuit in 2014 and racked up 13 top five finishes, including a couple of pro-am victories in Athenry and Adare Manor.
“I've never played Royal County Down in a professional event. In fact, most of my links experience relates back to when I was playing amateur golf and I remember then I couldn't wait to get playing parkland golf!
“I did play the British Amateur Championship at Royal County Down in 1999. I can't remember an awful lot other than it was tough but the greens were absolutely fantastic.”
The 2015 PGA in Ireland season gets under way on April 27th with a PGA Sprint event at Pat Ruddy's European Club followed by the Black Bush Ladies Assistant's Pro-Am on April 28th before stopping at Greystones for the Newcastle Garages Pro-Am on May 1.
Last year, two amateurs, playing in the Greystones Pro-Am drove away in new cars after recording aces at the 139 metre par three 16th courtesy of the event sponsor. Greystones' Dermot Whiston and Woodbrook's Paul O'Farrell holed out to each win a Peugeot 208!