Irish raiders in search of success at Limpopo Championship

Ronan MacNamara
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Irish raiders in search of success at Limpopo Championship

Tom McKibbin (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The South African swing continues on the Challenge Tour this week as the second-tier remains in Limpopo for the Limpopo Championship which will be played across the Euphoria and Koro Creek Golf Clubs in the foothills of the Waterberg Mountains.

The Limpopo Championship will bring the curtain down on an eight-event stint in South Africa before the players head to Tanzania next week.

Tom McKibbin makes his first Challenge Tour appearance in four weeks alongside John Murphy, Paul Dunne and Sunshine Tour regular Richie O’Donovan.

Holywood teenager McKibbin has made the most of his limited schedule in the early part of the season with T-3 and T-7 finishes in his first two starts helping him to a healthy 13th in the Road to Mallorca Rankings.

A share of 49th last time out at the Manguang Open halted his momentum slightly but there is no doubt he will tee it up on Thursday as one of the form horses and that has been reflected in his grouping for the opening two rounds.

The 19-year-old will tee off alongside last week’s winner Clément Sordet and big-hitting local favourite Wilco Nienaber at 07:40 local time at Koro Creek.

The Northern Irishman has found his feet as a professional just a few weeks shy of marking the anniversary of his decision to leap into the pro ranks and has hit the ground running this year, notching his maiden professional win in a Minor Golf League event in Florida in January.

McKibbin has a stroke average of 68.5 in his twelve rounds this season with a one-over 73 in the final round of the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open his only round in the black thus far.

Despite a missed cut at last week’s SDC Open, Kinsale’s John Murphy has been showing signs of a return to form after a hectic start to the season following his excursions on the PGA Tour.

Back-to-back top-20s before the SDC have helped the Cork man into 38th on the Road to Mallorca and he has only a couple of over-par rounds on the Challenge Tour this season so his golf has been good without turning it into consistent results.

Five events into the season and the 23-year-old has registered a pair of 18th place finishes a 47th place finish in the season opener and a brace of missed cuts.

Murphy will play his opening two rounds alongside Henrich Bruiners and Peter Karmis, starting with Koro Creek at 08:10 local time.

Greystones native Paul Dunne makes his first Challenge Tour appearance since missing the cut at the Jonsson Workwear Open at the end of February.

After a share of 51st place at the Magical Kenya Open on the DP World Tour, Dunne was struck down by Covid upon his return to Ireland earlier this month.

The 29-year-old is still finding his feet after two years of injury hell and has two missed cuts either side of a 36thplace finish in three starts on the second-tier thus far.

While the March weather in Ireland has undoubtedly come in like a lion and left like a lamb, Dunne will be looking to charge into April like a lion and find the spark he needs to kickstart his career.

The 2017 British Masters winner tees off on the Koro Creek course with Ryan Evans and Ulrich Van Den Berg.

Richie O’Donovan has opened his campaign with a hat trick of missed cuts and will be looking to arrest that run with a positive showing this week.

The Celbridge native has been plying his trade on the Sunshine Tour since digging deep to secure his playing rights in 2020.

The former East of Ireland champion will open his week at Euphoria Golf Club in the company of Daniel Brown and Quintin Wilsnach at 08:20 local time.

Two-time winner this season and Road to Mallorca leader JC Ritchie headlines the field while Matteo Manassero looks to continue his promotion bid to the DP World Tour as he recovers from a slump in recent years.

The four-time DP World Tour winner – youngest winner in Tour history – caught the eye when he stormed to the top of the leaderboard after round one of the much-maligned Saudi International and he is currently ranked 20th in the Road to Mallorca Rankings after missing out on promotion last term.

The Italian has recorded finishes of 8th and 7th this season on the Challenge Tour and has not won on Tour since winning the 2013 BMW PGA Championship.

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