Thornton claims victory in final Links Trophy qualifier – final 16 confirmed

March 10, 2018

Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort) carded a six-under-par 61 on Royal County Down’s Annesley Links to head off Brian McElhinney (North West) and Chris Carvill (Belvoir Park) in the final qualifying round of the PGA Links Trophy.
The winner coasted to the turn in three-under-par 31 with birdies at the second, third and ninth holes. At the second, he holed from eight feet after a drive and nine iron to the green, then wedged to five feet for a two at the next. At nine he drove the green and got down in two putts for another birdie three.
A gap wedge to six feet gave Thornton his second two but the run was halted when he found the rough twice at the 12th resulting in a bogey five.
His third two – an eagle this time – was pencilled in at the 15th after he drove to eight feet.
However, despite the birdies and his eagle, the key moment of Simon’s round came at the par four 17th where his drive was plugged in a bunker and he had to take a penalty drop. The attempted recovery then hit the bank and ran back into the sand but from there, he holed out to save his par.
Thornton finished with another birdie three as he rolled home a 15-footer after a drive and wedge to the 18th for a home run of 30.
The leading 16 players have qualified (list below) for the matchplay final at Royal County Down’s Championship Links on March 27.  The 16 players will play in groups of four, playing round robin six-hole medal Matchplay with the winner of each group progressing to the semi-finals in the afternoon.
Each semi-final will be nine-hole medal Matchplay with the two winners contesting the final over nine holes and the losers playing for third and fourth place over nine holes.

PGA Links Trophy Final Qualifying Round at Royal County Down (Annesley Course)
61 (-6) – S Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort).
62 – B McElhinney (North West), C Carvill (Belvoir Pk).
65 – A Cathers (Ardglass).
67 – N Kernaghan (Massereene), S Donnelly (Castle Hume).

PGA Links Trophy Qualifiers
Brian McElhinney (North West)
Simon Thornton (Tulfarris)
Chris Carvill (Belvoir Park)
Gary McNeill (Ry Portrush)
Shaun Donnelly (Castle Hume)
Adam Cathers (Ardglass)
Paul Stevenson (Portadown)
David Allen (Newtownstewart)
Damian Mooney (D Mooney Golf)
Ciaran Molloy (Mayobridge)
Chris Loughrey (Castlerock)
Nathan Kernaghan (Massereene)
Neil Graham (Portstewart)
Gary Wardlow (Spa)
Michael McCrudden (Roe Park)
Wes Ramsey (Knockbracken GA)

Info courtesy of Tony McGee


Concra Wood grabs opportunity to stage Irish Challenge

March 2, 2018

They’ve always had a can-do attitude at Concra Wood.
It got the course built in the first place and has kept it going through difficult financial times.
So, when club professional Conor McKenna received a phone call in January enquiring if the club would like to stage the Irish Challenge he didn’t give it a moment’s thought.
“I think I considered it for around three seconds before saying yes,” said Conor speaking on the NI Golf Podcast.
“When the Challenge Tour come knocking on your door, you just can’t refuse them.

“The format of the Irish Challenge with the involvement of Team Ireland, CGI etc really fits the bill for us and what is going on at the golf club.”

The stunning 7,300-yard layout in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan was designed by Ireland golfing legends Christy O’Connor Junior and Senior.
Offering lake views from every tee, with Lough Muckno coming into play on 11 of the 18 holes, the spectacular parkland course will host the fourth edition of the Irish Challenge (October 4-7).
The venue is no stranger to championship golf, having hosted the EuroPro Tour between 2012 and 2014, and its par-72 course is set to provide a tough test for some of global golf’s finest young talents later this year.

Homegrown players competing in the Irish Challenge will once again battle it out for the Christy O’Connor Junior Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the highest-ranked Irish player in the tournament.
Alain de Soultrait, European Challenge Tour Director, said: “We are thrilled to confirm that the Irish Challenge will take place at Concra Wood Golf Club. We would like to thank everyone at Concra Wood Golf Club for their support in hosting the Irish Challenge.”
Seamus Mallon, Chairman of Concra Wood Golf Club, said: “We are delighted to be hosting the Irish Challenge. The competitors are in for four days of challenging but very enjoyable golf and we know Concra Wood will provide a stern test.

“To host a Challenge Tour event this year is a great achievement considering our course will celebrate its 10th anniversary in July. We have many celebrations and events planned for this year but this certainly is the icing on the cake!”

Pat Finn, CEO of the Golfing Union of Ireland, said: “This tournament is a crucial part of the High Performance Programme run by the Confederation of Golf in Ireland.
“Thanks to Sport Ireland’s support, the players from Team Ireland Golf are provided with vital tournament exposure and playing opportunities, not just at their home event but across the Challenge Tour season.
“I’m sure we’ll see in October four days of excellent golf and it’s a chance for golf fans to come and support Ireland’s most talented players on home soil.”

Graham survives late mistake to win Donaghadee UGA event

March 1, 2018

A late stumble almost proved very costly for Gareth Graham in the latest round of the PING PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance series at Donaghadee GC.
The Groomsport Golf Centre professional was one under par playing the last but penciled in a double-bogey six after hitting his second shot out of bounds and off the clubhouse.
Fortunately, no damage was done to the building or his chances of winning the tournament. His one-over-par 72 earned him a narrow one-shot victory over Brian McElhinney (North West), Gary Wardlow (Spa) and Chris Carvill (Belvoir Park).

Gareth Graham

It was the second six on the winner’s card as he also made bogey at the par five second where he three-putted. He made eight pars on the rest of his run to the turn for an outwards trip of 37.
A drive and seven iron on to the 12th green set up the opening birdie of his round and he reached one-under-par with a drive and nine iron to a foot at the 15th. Regulation pars at the 16th and 17th holes left him still in the red but that unusual six left him signing for a 72.
Spa 13-handicapper Philip Burrows won the amateur’s overall nett prize on 41 points while Jessica Ross, who plays off three at Clandeboye, showed her male rivals how it should be done by winning the gross award on 32 points.

Ping PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance Tournament at Donaghadee
Professionals: 72 (+1) – G Graham (Portstewart)
73 – B McElhinney (North West), G Wardlow (Spa), C Carvill (Belvoir Pk).
75 – C Molloy (Mayobridge), B Wilson (Shandon Pk).
Amateurs: Overall Nett, 41 pts – P Burrows 13 (Spa).
Category One (8&Under): 40 pts – A Adair 4 (Clandeboye).
37 – A Thompson 8 (Belvoir Pk).
Category Two (9-13): 36 pts – G Hamill 13 (Shandon Pk).
34 – J Connolly 10 (Blackwood).
Category Three (14&Over): 34 pts – J Wilson 15 (Shandon Pk).
23 – S Gurr 23 (Spa).
Gross: 32 pts – Jessica Ross +3 (Clandeboye).
Team: 80 pts – Pro C Molloy (Mayobridge) with J Connolly 10, A Connolly 6 & I Moore 5 (all Blackwood).

Info provided by Tony McGee

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council launch new Junior Golf tournament

February 25, 2018

On the tee box at Warrenpoint Golf Club are, Irish international Colm Campbell; Andy Patterson, Assistant Director Tourism, Culture and Events: Kevin Stevens, Executive Officer, Golfing Union of Ireland (Ulster Branch); Marie Ward, Council Director of Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism; John White, Chairman of Golfing Union Ireland (Ulster Branch); Austin Crawford, Captain of Kilkeel Golf Club; Raymond Duffin, Captain Warrenpoint Golf Club; and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson Councillor Roisin Mulgrew.

They’re going all in on junior golf in County Down this summer.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council in conjunction with the GUI (Ulster Branch), and ILGU (Northern District) have announced details of a new three-day junior event to run from 15-17 August.
This new tournament, which will be hosted by Kilkeel, Warrenpoint and Royal County Down will be on at the same time as the Girls British Amateur Championship at Ardglass GC (14-18 August).
The Newry, Mourne and Down Junior Summer Golf Trophy offers competition for all standards of golfer and at multiple age groups U18, U16 and U14. Competitors will play at Warrenpoint and Kilkeel with the leading 20 qualifiers earning the right to compete at Royal County Down.
For the very young (U10) and beginners (those without an official handicap), a flag competition will run concurrently with the competitions in Kilkeel and Warrenpoint. Golfers will start on the 10th Tee and in 25 shots see how far they can get. After the flag competition, the club professionals will host a clinic for all participants. Prizes will be awarded in the flag competition based on age.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Roisin Mulgrew said; “Newry, Mourne and Down District Council are supportive of the development of junior golf and golf tourism in the north of Ireland.”
She continued; “The Newry, Mourne and Down Junior Summer Trophy is an exciting new golf tournament that will be competitive, challenging and fun for junior golfers and aims to help every child enjoy the sport of golf.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase the Newry, Mourne and Down region and to attract junior golfers from across Ireland and beyond. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council hope to see this junior golfing event established as an annual event.”

Chairman of the GUI (Ulster Branch) John White said; “The Golfing Union of Ireland (Ulster Branch) is delighted to be associated with Newry Mourne & Down District Council’s new golf competition “Junior Golf Summer Trophy”.

“This competition is an excellent stepping stone between those taking up the game and those that have reached an elite standard, in all age categories, who play in the various GUI/Ulster Branch Championships across the country.”

He continued; “The attraction to families is especially welcomed, with the competitions at Kilkeel and Warrenpoint supplemented by a Flag competition, for those not able to play in the Summer Trophy itself. We wish all competitors and their family and friends an enjoyable few days in this very picturesque part of the country.”
For further information and to book your space, go to
The long-established Newry Mourne and Down Summer Trophy will also run alongside this exciting new junior event.
Competitors will play Spa GC, St Patrick’s GC and Royal County Down golf Clubs on 15-17 August 2018. To book your space in the Summer Trophy visit

More Mooney magic at Massereene

February 21, 2018

Damian Mooney

Damian Mooney (Damian Mooney Golf) was up to his old tricks at Massereene, striding away from the pack in the penultimate round of the Ping PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance.
The Belfast golfer made it back-to-back Alliance victories courtesy of a superb seven under par 65. His bogey-free seven-birdie round gave him some room to manoeuvre ahead of second-placed Chris Carville (Belvoir Park).
Damian made a fast start to his round collecting birdies at the second and fourth holes, chipping in from just off the edge of the green at the second hole and wedging to one foot at the fourth.
After a drive and five iron approach, a chip and putt gave him another birdie at the par-five seventh and he closed out the front nine with his fourth birdie of the round.
Four pars followed before Mooney glued together a hat-trick of birdies from the short 14th hole, where he wedged to 18 inches. At the next, a three iron and a nine iron left him 10 feet from the pin and he rolled home that putt for another birdie three and he completed his hat-trick by hitting the 16th green with a drive and six iron, before getting home in two putts.
The final qualifying round in the Ping PGA event will be played at Donaghadee next Monday after which the leading 20 players will go forward to the final at Concra Wood on March 20.

Ping PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance at Massereene
Professionals: 65 (-7) – D Mooney (Damian Mooney Golf).
71 – C Carvill (Belvoir Pk).
72 – B McElhinney (North West), P McCarroll (Allen Pk).
73 – P Farrell (Laganview DR).
74 – V Teague (Loughgall).
Amateurs: Overall Nett, 38 pts – L McArdle 13 (Loughgall).
Category 1 (scr-8): 36 pts – A Adair 4 (Carnalea); 32 – W Havlin 5 (Greencastle).
Category 2 (9+): 37 pts – E Simpson 12 (Loughgall); 34 – P McKenna 12 (Whitehead).
Category 2 (14+): 37 pts – G Hamilton 15 (Shandon Pk); 35 – L Hale 17 (Shandon Pk).
Gross: 28 pts – J Johnston 7 (Belvoir Pk).
Team: 90 pts – Pro V Teague (Loughgall) with amateurs E Simpson 12, L McArdle 13 (both Although) & E Dorman 12 (Dungannon).


Copy courtesy of Tony McGee

R&A consider capping spectator numbers for Royal Portrush Open Championship

February 17, 2018

A visualisation of how the 18th green (the current 16th) will look in 2019

In an unprecedented move, the R&A is weighing up plans to cap spectator numbers at next year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
The historic nature of The Open’s return to Northern Ireland for the first time in almost 70 years coupled with the potential for a resurgent Rory McIlroy has given officials a headache as they consider how best to deal with what could be record-breaking crowds.
Given that the Irish Open in 2012 at the same venue was a sell-out – with over 130,000 people filling through the gates – R&A officials are now pondering a move which would be a first in 140+ years of the celebrated major Championship.
Speaking earlier this week R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers said the issue was being given ‘serious consideration’.
“It’s not just the compactness [of the site], but what do fans really want, which is they want to get as close to the players as they possibly can, and that plays into how many people can we actually physically get into the complex, into the course and give them that experience. And so there’s a lot of work being done on that we haven’t concluded yet,” he said.

“I think there will be also a lot of Americans will be there, especially for the first time. I think it could be a big crowd. And if Rory keeps playing well, it’ll be an even bigger crowd.”

Last year’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, won by American Jordan Spieth, attracted record crowds for an Open on English soil with 235,000 people attending during tournament week which includes the practice days. It was the third highest ever, falling shy of the St Andrews Opens of 2000 (239,000) and 2015 (237,000).

To add some further context, individual daily attendance figures at the Open Championship regularly top 40,000. In 2014, when Rory McIlroy collected the Claret Jug at Hoylake, some 42,000 people came through the gates. Given that figure, upwards of 50,000 a day could well be expected at Royal Portrush.
Work is continuing apace at Royal Portrush to install the infrastructure needed to host the event next July which is set to include daily seating for approximately 20,000 spectators.
Two new holes on the championship Dunluce Links, designed by Mackenzie and Ebert and built specifically for the Open Championship were opened for play in July last year. The R&A will stage the Boys Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush and Portstewart from 14-19 August this year.

World Ranking points up for grabs at Faldo Series Northern Ireland Championship

February 8, 2018

The 10th at Lough Erne

The Faldo Series returns to Lough Erne Resort this year in a new July date and with valuable World Ranking points up for grabs.
The Faldo Series Northern Ireland Championship will welcome a strong field of young golfers to the Enniskillen venue (July 18-20) for the 11th Faldo Series event to be hosted in County Fermanagh.
“We were determined to make sure the tournament was World Ranking this year and to do that, we opted to make it a three-day event,” said Lough Erne Director of Golf, Lynn McCool.

“Historically the tournament was held in April and that worked very well but adding another day encouraged us to move the event into the summer during the school holidays and hopefully in some warmer weather. Now that it is a world ranking event, we are expecting to receive even more interest so prospective participants should get their entries in soon.”

Last year, Robert Moran won the Faldo Series Ireland event at Lough Erne by a single shot. The Castle Golf Club member fired an excellent final round of 69 – four shots better than any other player on the day – to book his ticket to the Faldo Series Grand Final which was held at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club in UAE.
“It’s a wonderful prize to reach the Grand Final,” added Lynn.
“The winners get to travel, to spend time in a learning environment and mix with other golfers from all over the world.
“In the past, we hosted the Grand Final at Lough Erne and Sir Nick Faldo puts a remarkable amount of time and effort into the week. It’s one of the reasons why the Faldo Series is now a huge global competition.”
This year’s Northern Ireland Championship will be played over three rounds on the Faldo Course at Lough Erne. The field will be divided into five age-groups – three for boys and two for girls – and the winners of each division will again join Sir Nick Faldo at the season-ending Faldo Series Grand Final.

Lynn McCool at Lough Erne

Lynn continued: “The Faldo Course provides a different challenge for these young players. They have to think their way around, especially when faced with risk and reward holes like the 10th and the 17th.
“To beat this course you have to be able to play every shot and you have to keep going right to the very end. The closing stretch of holes lend themselves to tournament golf because it’s never over until you’ve holed out on the last.”
Sir Nick Faldo created the Faldo Series in 1996 to give opportunity to young people through golf and to help identify and nurture the next generation of champions.
Supported by golf’s governing bodies, 40 annual tournaments now take place in 30 countries worldwide, spanning Europe, the Middle East, North and South America, and Asia. Past winners include major champions Tseng Ya-ni and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.
Competitors aged 12 to 21 can now enter the Faldo Series Northern Ireland Championship with places in the Faldo Series Grand Final awaiting the age group winners.

To enter the Faldo Series go to

For more information on the Faldo Series visit You can also follow the Faldo Series on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Hanna and Graham take different routes to the top at Kirkistown

February 3, 2018

Peter Hanna

Peter Hanna is not letting the fact that he will become PGA Captain next year interfere with his own game.
The Lurgan professional was in fine form at Kirkistown Castle which stepped in to host the Alliance event after Knock GC was ruled unplayable.
It is the third time that Kirkistown Castle has stepped in to save the day and organising secretary, Phil Posnett, is pretty thankful for that.
“Kirkistown has been very helpful to us this season when weather conditions meant that some of our scheduled courses were not fit to take an event. Kirkistown has always helped out and did a very good job at the last minute,” said Phil.
Hanna and Gareth Graham (Groomsport) shared top spot with a pair of 69’s. Peter was particularly pleased with his putting.
“It was the best putting round I have had since winning at Belvoir Park in 2015,” said Peter who made an unsteady start at the second where he three-putted for a bogey five.
That was the end of his woes on the greens as he holed out well for the rest of his round. He drove the green at the third to 20 feet and got down in two putts for the opening birdie of his round and he added another at the fifth as he rolled home a 15-footer.
A drive and sand-wedge to three feet earned him another birdie three at the seventh hole before he dropped a shot at the par three eighth. After turning in one-under 34, Hanna topped his second shot to the 10th and was hauled back to level par before finishing with eight pars for his 69.
Graham birdied the long first hole where he chipped to six feet but gave the advantage back at the fourth when he put his eight iron tee-shot into the sand resulting in a bogey four.
Another missed green at the eighth cost him another bogey. He then went two-over-par with a three-putt on the 10th green but regained the lost ground with birdie threes at 13, where he holed from 12 feet, and 17, where he pitched to six feet.

Ping PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance at Kirkistown Castle
Professionals: 69 (level) – G Graham (Groomsport Golf Range); P Hanna (Lurgan).
71 – G Wardlow (Spa), C Carvill (Belvoir Pk)
72 – B McElhinney (North West), R Whitford (Knock).
Amateurs: Overall, 39 pts – W Farrell 4 (Shandon Pk).
Category 1 (8&Under): 38 pts – W Havlin 5 (Greencastle).
35 – C Torney 6 (Clandeboye)
Category 2 (9-14): 37 pts – S Foster 11 (Massereene).
34 – S Goldthorpe 12 (Blackwood).
Category 3 (14&Over): 36 pts – K Gilliland 16 (Castlerock).
35 – G Arthur 15 (Massereene).
Gross: 72 – J McVicker +1 (Knock).
Team: 85 pts – Pro A McDermott (Galgorm Castle) with amateurs M Fleming 8 (Galgorm Castle), S Graffin 12 (Moyola Pk) & K Gilliland 16 (Castlerock)

Copy thanks to Tony McGee

Horan and Modest! Golf return to back NI Open at Galgorm Castle

January 26, 2018

Robin Sciot-Siegrist winner of the 2017 NI Open along with Mark McDonnell and Niall Horan.

Niall Horan and Modest! Golf are back on board for this year’s Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle.
Modest! Golf and Horan return for a third consecutive year and record crowds are expected once more when the European Challenge Tour event takes place at the Ballymena venue from August 16-19.
Horan and fellow Modest! Golf Director Mark McDonnell are currently at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai supporting their Modest! Golf players, Scotland’s Connor Syme and England’s Jack Singh Brar.
“We are delighted to announce Modest! Golf’s return to the Northern Ireland Open for the third year. The event has grown every year and we look forward to linking up with Galgorm Castle and the Challenge Tour once again,” said Horan who played alongside Rory McIlroy in the Pro-Am at the Emirates on Wednesday.
Over 43,000 spectators came through the gates at Galgorm Castle in 2017 to witness the drama unfold before Robin Sciot-Siegrist from France was crowned champion in the Shootout Sunday format.
This year, organisers have returned to the traditional 72-hole strokeplay format, which ties in with the long-term vision for future stagings of the NI Open.
“Last year Keith Pelley, European Tour Chief Executive, challenged all the major stakeholders in golf to do their bit to introduce golf to new audiences,” explained McDonnell.
“We played our part in that by attracting the biggest ever crowd to a Challenge Tour event with the introduction of Shootout Sunday.

“Interest in the NI Open has never been higher and we are excited to return to the traditional four days strokeplay and look forward to welcoming new audiences to experience the best Challenge Tour event in the world.”

The NI Open continues to be a family-friendly event and 2018 will be no different with plenty of activities and attractions to take place away from the fairways. The GolfNow Junior NI Open proved a big hit last year and will showcase the junior talent for a second time when played over the six-hole course at the Galgorm Castle’s Fun Golf Area.
The 2018 NI Open holds another key summer date on the international schedule. It is also a hugely important event for the development of Ireland’s professionals starting out in their career and looking to make their mark in the game.
“For years the NI Open has provided Irish players much-needed playing opportunities,” explains Gary Henry, Managing Director Galgorm Castle.
“Irish professionals have the chance to compete on home soil against some of the best players in the world in one of the best events on the schedule. Just as important, this event alone opens so many doors to other events across Europe and beyond by way of reciprocal invites, which helps players put together a playing schedule for the season.”
The NI Open is an integral part of the work carried out by the Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI) and the Team Ireland Golf scheme that provides grants and funding to players in the early stages of their professional career.
“This Challenge Tour event is so important to us as a business,” added Horan.

“Year on year, this tour develops the next generation of European Tour winners and Major champions and we can’t wait for the NI Open to play its part, both this year and in future years.

“We have lots of plans with Galgorm Castle to develop this event even further over the coming years.”
Tourism Ireland also plays a key role in the success of the NI Open, especially when promoting golf on the island of Ireland to an international audience.
Aubrey Irwin, Tourism Ireland, said: “The Northern Ireland Open is a wonderful event, giving us an opportunity to showcase our world-class golf courses to a huge number of golfing enthusiasts across the world.
“There is tremendous interest in this event, as part of the European Challenge Tour series, and Tourism Ireland estimates that highlights of the event will be broadcast to approximately 540 million homes, via Sky Sports and their 26 international broadcast partners, and through digital media.
“The 2018 Northern Ireland Open will once again shine a spotlight on golf here, helping us to highlight our superb parkland courses, which complement the world-class links for which Northern Ireland is known around the world.”

(The NI Open continues to be free to enter for all the family. To get your tickets for the 2018 event, simply register online at

Cathers grabs his moment in the spotlight at Royal County Down

January 25, 2018

Ardglass assistant, Adam Cathers, hung tough in windy conditions at Royal County Down to secure his first pro win at the PGA Links Trophy on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old fired a commendable level par 71 (36pts) to win the latest round of the PGA Links Trophy at the famed Championship course.
Adam opened with six pars before dropping his first shot of the day at the par three seventh when he failed to get up and down after missing the putting surface with an eight iron. He then failed to find the green with a three-iron approach at the ninth resulting in a second bogey.
The Ardglass player was up to the challenge and began his comeback bid with a lob wedge to six feet for a birdie three at the 11th hole.  He got back to level par with a birdie at the par-five 12th and reached one-under-par for his round when he drove the green at the par four 16th, two-putting from 25 feet.
However, the putting wasn’t so good on the last when he somehow managed to four-putt for a third bogey of the day after finding the green in two shots.
Thankfully, he still had a decent lead, ultimately finishing three points ahead of joint second place Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort) and Peter Hanna (Lurgan).
The next Ping PGA UGA outing is scheduled for Knock on Monday.

PGA Links Trophy at Royal County Down scoreboard