Tom McKibbin has grown up with whispers of comparisons to Rory McIlroy, with many people believing he can follow in the footsteps of the current world number one and rule the roost in world golf.
For now, though, the 19-year-old will happily settle for being the king of Monte for the next two years after he was awarded the freedom of Montecasino for his hole in one in the opening round of the South African Open which grants him free accommodation including bed and breakfast for him and a partner until 2025.
“It’s pretty cool to be honest. It’s very nice to get something after my hole in one on Thursday,” smiled McKibbin who holed out with a five-iron from 233 yards on the par-3 11th.
“There was no prize on the tee but this is certainly a great thing to finish the week off with so yeah its pretty special and I appreciate it a lot.”
That ace was the highlight of a mixed bag for McKibbin this week who backed up an opening 67 with rounds of 71 and 73 before a final round 69 saw him sign off on a high note and secure a top-15 finish, one shot outside the top-10.
“Yeah it was OK. I played alright, didn’t really putt great. Today was a wee bit all over the place it was a solid week,” explained McKibbin who eagled the par-5 5th hole and also closed with back-to-back birdies for an eight-under total.
“I didn’t have my best stuff this week but that’s ok and I’ll try see if I can tidy it up for next week.”
The Holywood native has started his rookie season on the DP World Tour in impressive fashion with successive top-20 finishes in South Africa, a country he enjoys playing golf in.
McKibbin posted successive top-7 finishes in his opening Challenge Tour events in February which set the tone for a 15th place finish in the Order of Merit thus earning him a full DP World Tour card for this season.
Next up is the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, a golf course he knows well.
“I’m looking forward to it. I played an amateur event there before so I’m looking forward to getting back there and seeing how it plays. I’ve heard it is pretty special.”