Posts Tagged ‘Challenge Tour’

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.”


Relieved Caldwell earns 2018 Challenge Tour spot

October 26, 2017

The highlight of Jonny Caldwell’s PGA Europro Tour season was winning the Cobra Puma Golf Championship at Machynys Peninsula Golf Club

Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell will be playing on the Challenge Tour next season after claiming the fifth and final card on offer via the PGA Europro Tour Order of Merit.
The 33-year-old finished 15th in the last event of the season, the PGA EuroPro Tour Sky Sports Tour Championship at Amendoeria Golf Resort in Portugal.
“I am absolutely delighted after just missing out last year by slipping out of the top five at the Tour Championship,” said Caldwell who represented GB&I alongside Rory McIlroy at the Walker Cup in 2007 at Royal County Down.
“I’m delighted to get the job just about done. I tried to focus on my golf because there were so many guys in contention, all I could do was focus on myself. The support for me has been fantastic, I’ve had a solid year and I feel I’m ready to take it a step further onto the Challenge Tour.”
Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy finished fifth in Portugal which was good enough for eighth place on the Order of Merit. Niall Kearney ended the tournament in a tie for third, finishing the season 11th in the rankings.
The tournament was won by Englishman Adam Chapman who fired a final round 71 to win by three shots. The winning cheque of £22,540 saw Chapman jump from 54th in the rankings into third place and secured him a place in Challenge Tour next season.

NI Open Day two – Murray and Kellett lead way

August 12, 2017

Tom Murray

One cut down, another one to come at this year’s Galgorm Resort & Spa Northern Ireland Open presented by Modest! Golf.
After two days of jockeying for position, the tournament steps up a notch on Saturday with players bidding to finish inside the top 24 and earn a place in Shootout Sunday.
The two-round cut fell at level par on Friday with the magic mark to reach Shootout Sunday hovering around three under.
Ardglass golfer Cormac Sharvin, who finished the day on two under par alongside Irish players Damien McGrane, Simon Thornton and Neil O’Briain was considering a more aggressive approach on Saturday.
“I’m in a pretty good position to get into the last 24. I need one more good round tomorrow,” said Cormac.

“The second cut is around four under at the minute so it’s probably going to go to six.I probably need three or four under par at least tomorrow but you can’t get too aggressive around here.

“I need to be smart, take on flags when they are there but stay away from some tee shots when there is a bit of trouble around.”
Englishman Tom Murray and Scotland’s Ross Kellett lead the way on eight under par, with Austrian Lukas Nemecz a shot further back.
Murray knows how to win on Irish soil, his sole Challenge Tour victory to date came two years ago at the Irish Challenge in Co Carlow, and he is looking forward to the weekend’s contest.
“I don’t know what it is about Ireland but whether it’s south of the border or here up north, it seems to bring out the best in me,” said the 27-year-old.
“The course set up here is probably the best of the year and it feels like a European Tour event, so that helps boost everything, and everything around the event is so good. I’m playing well and putting well, the greens are perfect, so it’s so far so good.
“I was talking to Dominic Foos today on the course about the Shootout Sunday and we were saying how it’s hard, because at the moment it’s just playing like a normal tournament, so we don’t know what to expect really.

“You’ve just got to approach tomorrow how you normally would and go and try to win the tournament, all the boring stuff, shot by shot, then see where we are come Sunday and see what happens.”her back on seven under.”

A total of 73 players made it through to Saturday’s third round with just eight shots separating first from last. Amongst them was tournament ambassador Michael Hoey who had fully expected to miss the cut after following his opening round 69 with a 72 to finish on one under par.
“My game is not far away but it’s just not quite there. It was the same yesterday. I just left a few shots out there,” said Michael.
“The swing is good but I’m just not dialled in enough.”
Play gets underway this morning at 8.30am with the leaders going out at 10.30am.
In the event of a tie for 24th, a sudden death play-off will take place before a draw tomorrow evening to decide the match-play pairings.


Dermot McElroy determined to make the most of Irish Open invite

July 3, 2017

Dermot McElroy

Receiving an invite into the DDF Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation has been compared to finding the golden ticket in Roald Dahl’s famous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
As one of the European Tour’s Rolex Series events, this year’s tournament at Portstewart GC has a prize fund of $7,000,000 and a first prize touching €1,000,000.
That’s life-changing money and a golden opportunity for those players who have played their way into the field or happen to be lucky enough to receive an invitation.
In that regard, the finger of fate has pointed in the direction of the vastly experienced Michael Hoey, former BMW PGA Champion, Simon Khan, and three young professionals making their way in the game, Gavin Moynihan, Gary Hurley and Dermot McElroy
Ballymena’s McElroy only turned professional in July last year but he has hit the ground running in 2017.
The 24-year-old is riding high on the Europro Tour order of merit and has made the cut in his last two Challenge Tour appearances (Belgium & Scotland)
McElroy expressed his delight at receiving the ‘call-up’ to play in Portstewart after finishing tied for 33rd at the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge
“It was one of the nicest phone calls I have had in a long time,” said Dermot.

“My management company tried every avenue to get me in, so to get that invite was great news. I actually got the ferry over to Scotland and drove up to Aviemore for this week’s event because I thought I would be driving back down to Newcastle to play in a EuroPro tournament next week but now, my plans have changed a bit.”

As an amateur, Dermot played in the Irish Open on three occasions – in 2011, 2012 and 2014. The 2012 event at Royal Portrush remains etched in his memory.
He added; “That was totally different. The crowds, it was like an Open Championship. There was over 100,000 people at Portrush. It was bunged but it was a great experience for me.”
While Dermot is still finding his feet as a professional, his recent performances prove that he is becoming more comfortable playing in the spotlight and he’s excited about getting the chance to compete on a course he has played many times.
He added; “I’m getting used to dealing with cameras and the extra attention you get when you start playing well at an event. It doesn’t really bother me now.
“I also know Portstewart pretty well. I played it a couple of months ago and I noticed some of the new tees they have put in so I’m expecting it to be a good test.
“For me, the week will be about trying to perform as well as I can. Yes, it is a big stage, and there is a lot of money involved, but it is just golf. If I am playing well and am able to play my normal game I don’t see why I can’t do well.”


Long-term wrist injury forces Gareth Maybin to retire

April 27, 2017

Gareth Maybin was flying home from Johannesburg when the prospect of retirement finally became a reality.
The 36-year-old from Ballyclare had grabbed the offer of an invite to play in the Joburg Open [Feb23-26] but hampered by a long-standing wrist injury, he was forced to withdraw without even striking a ball.
“That probably put the nail in the coffin,” said Gareth, who confirmed his decision to retire via social media on Thursday.
“It’s not the end of the world, stuff happens.
“A combination of the wrist not being well and not playing well for a couple of years made it an easy decision in the end.”
A talented amateur, who won the North of Ireland Amateur Championship in 2002, Gareth turned professional in 2005 after completing a degree in sports management at the University of South Alabama.
He made smooth progress through the pro ranks and in 2008 cruised to a Challenge Tour victory at the Qingdao Golf Open in China to secure his place on the European Tour.
Those early years on the European Tour were successful without being spectacular. He lost out to Richard Sterne in a play-off at the South African Open in 2009 and in 2010 he finished second twice at the Ballantine’s Championship and the Andalucia Valderrama Masters.
The 2010 season was his best on tour, he finished 40th in the rankings and made the cut at the US Open, finishing tied for 63. That was the high point, he battled to retain his card over the next few years and eventually, in 2014 he missed out.
However, he returned to tournament golf in 2015 with renewed appetite planning to mix some European Tour starts with a run of Challenge Tour events but in June, he hurt his wrist playing at the Lyoness Open in Austria and was forced to withdraw.
He knew something wasn’t right but managed to tee it up the following week at the Najeti Open in France but, as it turned out, that was his last appearance for 18 months.
“I tore a tendon, so I went in and had surgery,” said Gareth.
“It was fixed, but it never settled, one of the stitches failed to dissolve so I had to go in again and have that taken out.
“Unfortunately, then it became very inflamed and I had to go back in and get it cleaned out.

“The only way it was going to get better was to have another surgery, break a bone, shorten it and then put a plate and pin in it.

“I’m not willing to have more surgery on the off-chance that it might work.”
Initially it looked like the long hours of rehab had paid off when he played in the Dimension Data Pro-Am on the Sunshine Tour in mid-February but that was followed by the Joburg withdrawal and then last week, he pulled out after one round of the Turkish Airlines Open.

“At the last couple of tournaments, as much as I tell myself to go through the pain, the hand won’t let me. I flinch at impact and I can’t control what the face is doing,” added Gareth, who has two young children.
“There is disappointment that I finished my career at the top level without a Euro Tour win.
“I played in three majors [US Open 2010 and Open Championship 2010 and 2013] and I finished second three times and that shows that I had the game to compete.
“In many ways being able to compete at that top level was a dream come true.”
Now that he’s hung up the clubs, he is looking around for a new challenge and hopes to stay involved in sport although he’s not so sure about remaining in golf.
“The obvious route would be to do a bit of coaching,” he added.
“I do enjoy watching kids playing and improving but I need to see what comes up now.
“After playing golf for as long as I have it becomes a job, just like anything else.
“I’d love to maybe try a bit of broadcasting at something like the Irish Open.
“Whatever it is, I want it to be fun, something that gets me out of bed in the morning.”


NI Open embraces change and tweaks format to create Shootout Sunday

March 30, 2017

Ryan Fox plays into the 18th on his way to victory at last year’s NI Open (Photo by PressEye)

It’s all change for this year’s NI Open at Galgorm Castle in the shape of a new format and a new presenting sponsor, Modest! Golf.
Now in its fifth year, the NI Open is one of the best-supported events on the Challenge Tour schedule, both in terms of attendances and depth of field.
This year the NI Open has embraced the European Tour’s vision of introducing fresh new ideas and innovation to professional golf with the introduction of Shootout Sunday.
At this year’s event 156 players will tee it up ahead of the traditional 36-hole cut, before a 54-hole cut on Saturday followed by five rounds of six-hole strokeplay matches in what will be a high octane and dramatic #ShootoutSunday.
Note the fact that it is Strokeplay. This tweak sets the event apart from the recent Super 6’s in Perth and ensures that every match will finish on the 18th (see below for full details).
Tournament ambassador Michael Hoey has backed the changes.
“The NI Open comes hot on the heels of the Irish Open and what is being devised here at Galgorm is an exciting new twist which sets it apart from anything we’ve ever had in Northern Ireland,” said Hoey, a five–time European Tour winner, who finished eighth at Galgorm in 2016 behind winner Ryan Fox from New Zealand.

“We have spoken to several players about the change in format, including last year’s winner Ryan, and all agreed that the new format is an extremely exciting new prospect. The NI Open’s unique and innovative strokeplay matches on the Sunday are a first for professional golf and is sure to be a highlight on the global golfing calendar.

Niall Horan and the Modest! team

“The new format is certain to be more entertaining for spectators, especially with holes like the redesigned par three seventh sure to throw up plenty of drama as crowds converge at strategic parts of the course.”
The innovation has also been backed by Mark McDonnell, Director of Modest Golf.
We are delighted to return to the NI Open, this time as Presenting Sponsor. We love working alongside the European Challenge Tour and Galgorm Castle and this year is set to be bigger and better than ever before,” he said.
Fellow Modest! Golf Director Niall Horan commented: “We are excited to be returning to the NI Open and introducing a brand new format. Shootout Sunday will be an exciting concept, both for the players and for spectators.”
The NI Open’s exciting new format offers a new dimension that complements the staging of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart earlier in the holidays.
Interactive and family events will also be on site at Galgorm Castle during the NI Open and one of the province’s sporting highlights will once again have FREE entry for all spectators.

The NI OPEN 2017
Round 1: 156 players begin three rounds of strokeplay
Round 2: 36-hole cut following close of play (Top 60 and ties)
Round 3: 54-hole cut following close of play (Top 24) to include play-off if required
NI Open Shootout Sunday: Five rounds of six-hole strokeplay matches
– The top eight players after 54 holes of strokeplay will receive a bye into the second round of matches and will be seeded.
– The remaining 16 players (positions 9-24) will be randomly paired for the first round matches.
– If there are any ties for 24th position, a sudden-death play-off (18th hole) will determine the qualifiers following the completion of 54 holes.
– The losing quarter-finalists will contest matches to determine positions 5-8 and the losing semi-finalists will contest a match to determine 3-4.
-Any matches level after six holes will be determined by playing the 1st hole (rounds one and two) or a shortened version of the 18th hole (quarter finals, semi-finals and final) as a sudden-death play-off hole.

Injury free Chris Selfridge sets sights on breakthrough Challenge Tour win in 2017

March 22, 2017

Far away from the glitz and glamour of the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas the Challenge Tour is finally getting under way in Kenya tomorrow.
Europe’s second-tier is emerging from hibernation and Cormac Sharvin, Michael Hoey, Gary Hurley and Chris Selfridge have been enticed to Nairobi’s Muthaiga Golf Club for the season opener.
Selfridge is eager to get going after his 2016 campaign was wrecked by a niggling wrist problem. A similar injury also put paid to his Euro Tour Q-School ambitions in 2015.
“I tore a ligament in my wrist a few weeks after the NI Open in August,” said the 24-year-old who is embarking on his third season on tour.
“I was out for a few weeks and then I came back for the Kazakhstan Open and it happened again as I was hacking out of the rough. I knew straight away.
“So then I was out for another four weeks, came back to play in the UAE and went to Q-School but I never made it through. By that stage I was healthy, but just too rusty.”
Chris has spent the off-season working with physios at the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland (SINI) and other experts to strengthen and protect the problem area and early season preparations have been positive.
“I haven’t had any issues while I have been playing and practicing,” he added.
“The last two seasons I have been looking good to make it to the European Tour.
“In 2015 the injury happened at Q-School when I was playing really well. And then last year, right in the middle of the season when I was in the top 30 of the Challenge Tour rankings.

“It is frustrating, but golf is frustrating, there is nothing else for it; you have to get on with it.

“I went to Portugal for a few weeks in January to play some mini-tour golf.
“It was a chance to ‘stress test’ the wrist and it went well, I played some pretty good golf considering I hadn’t played a lot of competitive golf in two and half months.”

In two full seasons on tour Chris had proven himself a consistent performer but that first win is proving elusive. His best finish is a tie for fourth at the Challenge de Madrid last year.
He needs to make that breakthrough and maybe having the experienced Michael Hoey around can help.
Hoey, who lost his full European Tour card last year has four wins at Challenge Tour level, the last of those coming at the Madeira Islands Open in 2011. The 38-year-old recently showed some signs of a return to form by finishing tied for eighth at the Hero India Open.
“We are rooming together in Kenya. He is a good guy to be around,” added Chris.
“I’m looking forward to getting the season started again and I would love to finally get a win.
“I know I am good enough, I have played loads of good golf, it’s just a matter of continuing to work hard, keep doing what I am doing and the results will come.”


Dermot McElroy joins large home contingent at Volopa Irish Challenge

September 7, 2016

The legacy of the late Christy O’Connor Jnr is set to live on at this year’s Volopa Irish Challenge hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort, where the Christy O’Connor Jnr Memorial Trophy will be presented to the highest-placed Irish player for the first time.

The four-time European Tour winner, who passed away in January this year, is one of Ireland’s most famous golfers and is well known for making one of the finest shots in Ryder Cup history – a stunning strike with a two-iron to within four feet of the 18th pin to beat Fred Couples at The Belfry in 1989.

O’Connor, the nephew of another golfing great Christy O’Connor Snr, was a legend on the global golf circuit and he designed the picturesque championship course at Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort – which will host this year’s competition for its second staging.

christy-oconnor-jnr-memorial-trophyFollowing the tournament’s completion, O’Connor’s son Nigel will present a beautiful Waterford Crystal trophy to the highest-placed Irish player in the European Challenge Tour event. Cut from Lismore Diamond and standing at 14 inches in height, this impressive prize is a fitting tribute to one of Ireland’s favourite sons.

The O’Connor family said: “It was a wonderful honour for Christy to become Tournament Ambassador of the Volopa Irish Challenge, not only for him to support the bright young stars of the future but also to see them playing at the magnificent Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort – a creation which he was incredibly proud of.

“We are delighted that Christy’s legacy will be continued through the Christy O’Connor Jnr Memorial Trophy, and we would like to sincerely thank everyone involved for making this possible.”

Paul McGinley, who became the first Irishman to captain Europe in The Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in 2014, said: “It is fantastic that the legacy of Christy will live on through this beautiful trophy. Christy was a close friend and mentor to me, and his influence helped make me the player I am. He was a legend of Irish golf, and it is fitting that one of our brightest young talents will be awarded this significant prize.”

Amongst the home contingent this week will be Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy who recently spoke to the NI Golf Podcast about making the transition to the professional ranks.

Dermot made his pro debut at the NI Open at Galgorm Castle and is looking forward to playing at Mount Wolseley.

“I feel like I have prepared quite well for this week. I took a trip down last week to have a look around,” said Dermot.

“I played in the event last year as an amateur and I like the course. It’s really good. Last year it was pretty soft and lush but it was quite bouncy and playing quite short this time. A bit different but I prefer it like that.”


Damien McGrane matches young guns on rain delayed day one at NI Open

July 29, 2016
Damien McGrane (IRL) on the 17th tee during Round 1 of the Tayto Northern Ireland Open in partnership with Ulster Bank at Galgorm Castle Golf Club, Ballymena Co. Antrim on Thursday 28th July 2016. Picture: Golffile | Thos Caffrey All photos usage must carry mandatory copyright credit (© Golffile | Thos Caffrey)

Damien McGrane (IRL) on the 17th tee during Round 1 of the Tayto Northern Ireland Open in partnership with Ulster Bank at Galgorm Castle 
Picture: Golffile | Thos Caffrey

Damien McGrane proved once again that there is no substitute for experience as he forced his way into the lead at a rain interrupted day one of the Tayto NI Open at Galgorm Castle.
The 45-year-old matched the young guns of the Challenge Tour, carding a mistake free six birdie round of 65 on a course softened by an overnight deluge that forced play to be delayed by six hours.
“I played lovely from start to finish, hit a lot of good tee shots and found the middle of the fairways,” said McGrane who came into the tournament on the back of two recent victories on the PGA in Ireland circuit.
“I was able to be patient and holed a couple coming in to reach six under. It was a stress free round which doesn’t often happen but it happened today.
“I don’t have any expectations. I just want to do well and put on a good show.”
McGrane was joined at the top of the leaderboard by Sam Hutsby, Bernd Ritthammer, Ben Stowm Daniel Gaunt, Dylan Frittelli and another Irish player, Rory McNamara.
Damien added; “I think the course here has some birdie opportunities but you have to hit the fairways to have a chance. Funnily enough, even after all the rain if you hit the middle of the fairway the ball does want to run 20 yards.

“Its very playable, the greens are soft now but they were very, very good for us to putt on because we were out early. We made the best of the conditions it was nice to get off to a good start.”
Play was eventually suspended for the day at 9pm with 26 groups still to finish the first round, amongst them, Dermot McElroy and Cormac Sharvin.
They face a long day on Friday as they will return to wrap up round one at 8am before heading out again to begin their second rounds.
Those players lucky enough to have completed their opening rounds on Thursday will begin their second rounds on Friday afternoon/evening.
Tournament ambassador Michael Hoey was amongst the players to get finished round one yesterday and will have a welcome lie in on Friday morning.
Hoey fired a three under par round of 68 to put himself firmly on track to make the cut at the fourth time of asking.
“I didn’t play great but got it round ok. It’s wasn’t playing that difficult, it’s soft and it’s target golf,” said Michael.

“At least I’m not out of the tournament which I have been by this stage in recent years. Now I can relax and see what I can do over the next few days.”

Michael added; “There was a point there today when I was struggling a bit. I bogeyed the third and made a couple of poor swings but I dug in well, finished strongly, made some good swings and picked up three birdies in a row.
“I could easily have gone the other way if I hadn’t dug in well, that was a big turning point.”
Michael’s three under par total was matched by Whitehead amateur John Ross Galbraith who collected four birdies and dropped only one shot in a strong performance.
“I drove the ball really well today. I think I only missed two fairways,” said John Ross who missed defending his North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush because of a neck injury.
“I was driving it pretty long and straight so I was able to give myself opportunities going into the greens. My iron play wasn’t bang on or I could have gone really, really low today
“I missed a few chances on the greens as well but overall it was decent start.”

Live scoring from Tayto NI Open in partnership with Ulster Bank


NI Open Previews – Dermot McElroy and Gareth Shaw ready for Galgorm Challenge

July 28, 2016
Dermot McElroy

Dermot McElroy

Dermot McElroy is hoping the familiar surroundings of Galgorm Castle can help him make a smooth transition from the amateur to professional ranks this week at the Tayto NI Open.
The 23-year-old from Ballymena is a regular at the Co Antrim venue and actually tied for ninth back in 2013 as a amateur, seven shots behind the winner, Daan Huizing.
“I can’t really pick a better spot for me. I know the course so well,” said Dermot a full Irish international who won the West of Ireland Championship last year.

“It’s really just about finding a bit of form and playing well. I’ve played a couple of practice rounds and I’ve a bit of work to do. Hopefully, I can find some over the next couple of days.

“Driving is going to be key this week. The rough is seriously thick, they’ve somehow managed to get it growing against you and it’s really heavy and wet. You’ll be struggling to reach the green if you get in it.”
Dermot had previously indicated that he was intending to turn professional at the end of the amateur season but when he was offered a chance to play in Galgorm, he thought the time was right to take the plunge.
He added, “I only really had two amateur events left so I said to myself, ‘why not go now?’
“I had the opportunity to play this week and hopefully I’ve a good chance of playing in the Challenge Tour event in Mount Wolseley at the end of September so I just thought there was no point in waiting any longer.”

Gareth Shaw

Gareth Shaw

It’s the nature of modern professional golf that Gareth Shaw is approaching veteran status at the ripe old age of 30!
“I feel that way sometimes. I played with two guys recently and they were 18 and 21 years old,” said the Lurgan golfer who joined the pro ranks in 2008 and has spent most of his career plying his trade on the Challenge Tour.
“When I first turned professional, I thought, ‘if I’m not doing any good by the time I’m 30 I’ll pack it in’ but here I am looking forward to another tournament at Galgorm Castle.
“There are a few guys around my age that have been doing pretty well this year.

“Golf has that longevity. You can make a lot of money in your 40s so you just have to keep going.”

The 2016 season has offered little encouragement in terms of results but Gareth has seen enough signs recently to give him grounds for optimism. It means that he’s looking forward to having another crack at winning the NI Open.
“The start of the year was tough. Everything was six out of 10. I wasn’t playing badly, I was just not playing well,” he added.
“Recently my driving has come on a lot and my putting is has been fantastic over the last couple of weeks. If I can somehow get it all to click, who knows?
“I am excited to play this week. It’s so nice to stay at home, to see familiar faces, get some home support and have a caddy on the bag. It’s small things like that which can make a big difference.”
Gareth finished tied for 42nd last year at Galgorm, a full 13 shot behind the winner, Frenchman Clément Sordet who is returning to defend his title this year.