GOLF: Rory McIlroy invite to Irish Open ‘awesome’, says Tom McKibbin

Newtownabbey's Tom McKibbin with Rory McIlroy. INLT 18-933-CON
Newtownabbey's Tom McKibbin with Rory McIlroy. INLT 18-933-CON

Golf star of the future Tom McKibbin has described the chance to play alongside Rory McIlroy at this year’s Irish Open Pro-Am as “awesome”.

The 13-year-old Newtownabbey native told the Times he wants to match Rory’s unmistakable style of play. And Rory reckons Tom’s the ‘real deal’!

Nicknamed ‘T-Mac’ by Graeme McDowell, Tom was invited by four-times Major champion McIlroy to play at the event which is being hosted by the Rory Foundation later this month.

“I’m really excited about it. It’s a big opportunity for me,” said the Belfast Royal Academy pupil.

Tom looks up to Rory and says he expects to learn a lot from being at such close quarters with him on the fairways at the K Club.

“Rory’s great! He’s one of the best golfers in the world and I want to be able to play just like him. I’ve already played a round of golf with him and already learnt so much, so I will use the day to learn so much more and have fun at the same time. This is what I want to do; play with the best and learn from the best.”

And what do his friends make of it all? “I think they think it’s really cool,” he said. “Most of my friends don’t play golf so we don’t talk about golf much.”

McKibbin won the Junior Honda Classic in Florida earlier this year and, aged 12, clinched the World Junior Championships last August.

“Tom McKibbin is a great talent,” McIlroy said. “I played a round with Tom in Florida recently and he is the real deal. At only 13 years of age, I think he has a remarkable golfing future ahead of him. Having seen him play a couple of times now, he impresses me more each time. And I can think of no better place to showcase his talents than at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at the K Club.”

It has also been confirmed that One Direction’s Niall Horan, retired jockey AP McCoy, actor James Nesbitt and ex-Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings, will all take part in the Pro-Am at The K Club.