Saturday 19 October 2019

McKibbin ready to join strong Home challenge

Holywood debutant Tom McKibbin insists nerves won’t be an issue for him as Ireland seeks a fifth Home Internationals win in six years at Lahinch. (stock photo)
Holywood debutant Tom McKibbin insists nerves won’t be an issue for him as Ireland seeks a fifth Home Internationals win in six years at Lahinch. (stock photo)

Brian Keogh

Holywood debutant Tom McKibbin insists nerves won't be an issue for him as Ireland seeks a fifth Home Internationals win in six years at Lahinch.

The Co Down prodigy (16) joins fellow debutants in Naas' Robert Brazill (22), Carton House's Keith Egan (26) and Malone's Matthew McClean (26) knowing he has experienced players to give him a helping hand.

"I don't really get nervous any more," said McKibbin, the youngest debutant since Rory McIlroy played at 16 in 2005. "I'm more excited than nervous. I just stand up and hit it now."

McKibbin will partner Warrenpoint's four-time Home Internationals winner Colm Campbell (32) when Ireland take in Scotland in today's foursomes.

"Collie is twice my age," said McKibbin, who won the Peter McEvoy Trophy and the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley in the US this year and already signed a letter of intent for the University of Florida. "He's obviously played in a lot of these and won, so it's great to have his experience there."

While England have two Walker Cup players in Tom Sloman and Thomas Plumb, Ireland has three in James Sugrue, Caolan Rafferty and Conor Purcell.

Seán Flanagan returns to the side while Irish Close champion Ronan Mullarney, Tiarnan McLarnon and debutants Brazill, Egan and McClean completed a strong Irish side.

Brazill, who partners Amateur champion Sugrue in the foursomes, sees this week as a big stepping stone.

"Two years ago I would not have seen myself in this position, not at all," said Brazill, who topped the Bridgestone Order of Merit this term.

"Golf wasn't really number one, I preferred to be on a football pitch so I made a decision I might as well give golf a crack and see what happens."

Meanwhile, Open champion Shane Lowry faces a busy end to the season as he bids to follow in the footsteps of McIlroy (three times), Ronan Rafferty and Pádraig Harrington and win the season-long Race to Dubai.

The Clara man (32), who returns to action in next week's BMW PGA Championship, confirmed yesterday he will play the Rolex Series' Italian Open in Rome from October 10-13.

Lowry, who leads the Race to Dubai from Bernd Wiesberger and Jon Rahm, has already confirmed he will play the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship later this month. He is also expected to play in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

European golf has lost one of its great characters following confirmation that colourful former Ryder Cup player Brian Barnes passed away on Monday aged 74.

Irish Independent

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