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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Kearney determined to build on career-best finish at The Belfry

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Royal Dublin pro Niall Kearney is fiercely determined to take to a ‘proper golf course’ and build-on last week’s career high finish in Wednesday’s starting BetFred British Masters at The Belfry.

The towering Irishman posted an equal Tenerife course record 61 to share fourth place in last week’s birdies galore Canary Islands Championship that secured his tee-time on this week’s famed Ryder Cup host venue.

Though Kearney could have done without Sunday’s long night, first on a charter flight into nearby Birmingham Airport and then having to wait hours to be tested at UK Immigration plus the added long delay of check-in to their official hotel before finally hitting the sack at 3.45am Monday.

“It would have been lovely to stay an extra night in Tenerife, go enjoy a nice meal and leisurely make our way to Birmingham the next morning but with the Wednesday start that wasn’t possible,” he said. “It’s why the body’s still a bit tired. I’ll play 9 holes Tuesday and go from there. The course looks in great nick though, set-up nicely so looking forward to it.”

Yet there’s nothing like a career low score and a €51,000 highest-ever paid cheque plus being now 99th on the Race to Dubai to lift the spirits as the 33-year-old explained.

“It was just brilliant to do it,” he said. “I felt something was brewing over the last two or three weeks but of course you don’t know whether or not it’s ever going to come out, or if it is, when it’s going to come out.

“But it was just special. I just felt like I got into the zone and kept going and going and going – I didn’t have any fear of going low. I was putting well and that tends to change everything with my game. If I’m holing a few putts and feel as though my eye is in, I know I can go low. The long game is always there, thereabouts but it’s all about the putting, it really is.”

And being just inside the top-100 on Race to Dubai money list, Kearney’s determined to make the most of every opportunity to eventually secure 2022 full membership by ending the season in the top-115.

“It’s always nice to have a week like last week as it feels like you’re riding a wave coming into a big tournament,” he said. “Last Sunday set me up lovely. It was a top finish, heading into this week now with a bit of confidence but it’s going to be a great challenge this week – a very different challenge too because we’ve been wearing a t-shirt for the last three weeks and the sun has been shining.

“So, now it’s more about having the goal of being on the European Tour, week-in, week-out because that’s what gives you the opportunities to play week-in, week-out. It’s just very pleasing to have broken into the top-100 on the Race to Dubai and hopefully I’ve got some decent starts coming up, obviously beginning this week to try and rise up that a bit.

There’s no doubt later in the year there’ll be tournaments that I won’t get into so I’m going to have to try and give myself a bit of a buffer and that’s what’s more exciting to me, trying to get into a position where I can realistically get my hands on a European Tour card for next year.”

And helping Kearney’s cause this week is having finished fourth in playing The Belfry in a 2014 PGA EuroPro event.

“This is a proper course,” he said. “I walked out around 10 and 11 early on just to see what’s going on around the greens and the rough is pretty savage around them so whoever’s hitting 15, 16 greens a round around here is going to do well. I generally tend to hit quite a lot of greens so hopefully that’s in my favour this week.”

Former British Masters champ Paul Dunne leads out the five Irish with Glasson’s 41-year-old Colm Moriarty into his first European Tour event since last September’s Irish Open.

IRISH TEE TIMES

  • Paul Dunne – 7.40am
  • Niall Kearney – 8.30am
  • Cormac Sharvin – 9.20am
  • Colm Moriarty – 9.30am
  • Jonathan Caldwell – 2.30pm

 

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