Holywood teenager Tom McKibbin will make his European Tour debut after accepting an invitation to compete in the new Shot Clock Masters tournament at Diamond Country Club in Austria from June 7-10.
Winner of the Junior Honda Classic (U18) and The Faldo Major Champions Invitational in recent months, the 15-year-old Irish Under 16 international from Newtownabbey made his European Challenge Tour debut in 2016, aged just 13 and 222 days.
Rory McIlroy, who hails from the same club as McKibbin and has been supportive of his career, played in the Daily Telegraph British Masters at the Forest of Arden just eight days after his 16th birthday in 2005, shooting rounds of 82 and 81 to miss the cut.
He would also play in the Nissan Irish Open and the Scottish Open that year and also miss the cut, eventually missing out on Walker Cup selection because he skipped some key amateur events — a decision the captain later regretted.
Now playing off scratch, McKibbin won last year's Munster Under 16 Boys and the Ulster U16 Close and Open titles.
He said: “It is very exciting to play on the European Tour for the first time, and especially in the first ever tournament like this. Teeing it up at Diamond Country Club will be an amazing experience, but I’m also looking forward to seeing the shot clock technology and how the whole event works.
“I’m in favour of fast play and I consider myself to be a fast player so I think the idea behind the Shot Clock Masters could be great for the future of golf.
“I’m grateful to the European Tour and the promoters of the Shot Clock Masters for giving me this opportunity. It is my dream to play on the European Tour in the future and I can’t wait to experience the environment and take the chance to learn as much as I can from the players in Austria.”
The 2018 Shot Clock Masters will be the first tournament in professional golf to use a shot clock on every shot.
The European Tour experimented with a shot clock on one hole at the inaugural GolfSixes in 2017 – a move which proved popular with both players and fans. In a marked difference to the GolfSixes model however, this tournament will embrace the Tour’s official timing policy (similar to policies used across the world of professional golf) over 72 holes, with an intent to showcase a European Tour event played at a more compelling pace.
In accordance with this official policy, each player in the field will have 50 seconds for a first to play approach shot (including par 3 tee shot), chip or putt and 40 seconds for a tee shot on a par 4 or par 5 or second or third to play approach shot, chip or putt.
Players will incur a one-shot penalty for each bad time incurred and these will be shown as a red card against their name on the leaderboard.
Each player will have the right to call two time extensions during a round which will permit them twice the usually allotted time to play the shot.
In 2016 the European Tour pledged to speed up the game of golf, introducing a new pace of play policy which included monitoring penalties, handing referees additional powers to target slow players.
This policy had an immediate effect, leading to a visible reduction in round times, and the additional development in Austria could have an even more dramatic impact.
It is hoped the move will cut round times by around 45 minutes, reducing three-ball timings to approximately four hours, and two-balls to around three hours 15 minutes.