Niall Kearney is chasing a hat-trick of Irish PGA Championship titles this week on the Twin Oaks Championship Course at Moyvalley Hotel & Golf Resort from Thursday.
A victory at the North Kildare venue would lift the Dubliner into some exalted company alongside historic figures like Christy O'Connor, Harry Bradshaw and more recently, Padraig Harrington, who achieved a similar feat in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
“I didn't want to pass up the chance to defend the title,” said the 28-year-old who cruised to a record-breaking 14-shot win at Dundalk last year.
“I was very comfortable on the course last year. I like Dundalk and I was on a decent run of form. I went out there and I played well and putted well. The overriding memory is just being so consistent for four days. It was confidence more than anything else.”
Kearney went into last year's Championship on something of a high after holing the winning putt for GB&I to wrap up an historic first PGA Cup victory on US soil but he admits that he is not in the same frame of mind this time around.
Having failed to retain his Asian Tour card at the end of last year, he has played mainly on the Europro and Challenge Tour this season while trying to bed in some swing changes.
“I've been working with John Kelly (St Margaret's) to try and take things to the next level,” added Niall.
“Change takes time. It's not big change by any means but when you have been playing one way for so long, a minute change can feel very alien.
“At the moment, I'm probably thinking about my golf swing too much rather than shooting a score but I need to try and get past that now.
“This is a strong part of the year. I have the Irish PGA Championship followed by European Tour Q-School and the Europro Tour finals so it's not a bad time of the year to be peaking.”
This year, Moyvalley Hotel & Golf Resort are the new Title Sponsor and Host Venue of the 106th staging of the Irish PGA Championship. The Twin Oaks Championship course – which plays to over 7000 yards - has undergone significant investment and extensive upgrade works over the past six months to bring it up to championship standard ahead of the event.
The leading lights on the Irish PGA Order of Merit, which is currently headed by David Higgins (Waterville Links), are lined up to play including Damien McGrane a 14 time winner already this season and Neil O'Briain (Old Conna) who has clocked up 10 victories in 2016.
“It's a long, long time since I last played at Moyvalley,” continued Niall.
“I played there in a Darren Clarke Foundation weekend. That's over 10 years ago and the course was still very young but I remember it as being something of an inland links. I will be using the Pro-am on Wednesday to try and get my bearings again.”
Ryder Cup legends Des Smyth and Philip Walton are amongst a number of sporting celebrities including soccer legends Niall Quinn, Steve Staunton and Ian Rush who will be participating in the Christy O’Connor Jnr Irish PGA Championship Pro-Am on September 21.
O'Connor's sudden death in January this year shocked the entire golfing community. As a mark of respect, the PGA in Ireland, in association with the O'Connor family and the directors of Moyvalley Hotel and Golf Resort agreed that the Irish Championship Pro-Am would be named in his honour.
The Pro-Am will be followed by a pre-Dinner Drinks Reception in the 19th century Italianate Mansion Balyna House which is the 'Jewel in the Crown' of the Balyna Estate. This will be followed by a Gala Prizegiving Banquet –In Aid of Shabra Charity Foundation to be hosted in the Royal Canal Suite of Moyvalley Hotel & Golf Resort.
* The 106th Irish PGA Championship is being staged - In Association with Title Sponsors Moyvalley Hotel & Golf Resort, Official Media Partners Golf Digest Ireland and Classic Hits 4FM and with support from House of Waterford Crystal and Skycaddie.