Richard Kilpatrick achieved a long-standing ambition to capture the PGA in Ireland Order of Merit in 2022. Now the Banbridge professional has set his sights on even more.
By the numbers, this past campaign was a remarkable one for the now 40-year old. Having teed up in 27 events, Kilpatrick never missed a cut, notching 22 top-10s and four victories on his way to a 34-under par cumulative total and the money-list crown.
“It’s right up there,” Kilpatrick says of where the achievement ranks in his career.
“It was a goal of mine ever since I joined the PGA. What it used to get you and what it does now, it gives you the opportunity to better yourself and get those main Tour starts.
“I’ve finished third and second two of the last three or four years so I was always close. I was pushed hard by Liam [Grehan] in the end so it was a nervy finish but it’s nice to get it ticked off the list.”
Kilpatrick travelled just shy of 20,000 miles this season in pursuit of Order of Merit glory. A finance broker with his dad’s firm by day, as well as a cattle farmer, golf coach, and proud family man, finding the right balance has been key to Kilpatrick’s exploits this term, and it’s a quality over quantity approach that has unlocked his true potential.
“It’s probably my best year,” Kilpatrick concedes having carried out his PGA training under Jason Greenaway at Banbridge. “There’s years where I’ve drove the ball better or I’ve had a better short game percentage but if you put everything together, this is the most consistent year I’ve ever had.
“And that’s going back to playing full-time golf when I was practicing four or five hours a day, five or six days a week. When you get to my age, it’s more quality over quantity.”
Investing in a Huxley putting mad has certainly aided Kilpatrick’s renaissance.
“Putts per round was 0.5 of a shot better this season,” Kilpatrick explains.
“I averaged 29.33 putts per round this year. When I became a father and time was restricted, I bought a Huxley putting mat. I probably use it three times a week, an hour at a time and it really helped give me confidence.”
Conversations with Tulfarris pro Simon ‘the Hoover’ Thornton helped too as Kilpatrick revolutionised his flat-stick performance, but above all else, it was the perspective gained from his life away from the fairways that ultimately led to improvements on them; wisdom that Kilpatrick would’ve dearly treasured when he first turned professional in 2007.
“I’d love to be 25 again and have the brain I have now because I reckon I could give it a real good go,” he says.
“With age you get a bit more savvy and realise instead of looking good and hitting it good, it’s the numbers that make you the money.”
That’s not to say Kilpatrick must give up on his main tour ambitions just yet. With his Order of Merit victory, he earns a spot in April’s PGA Play-Offs at Aphrodite Hills and a big week in Cyprus could open doors to the Promised Land. Eight DP World Tour starts went to the 2022 champion at PGA National Slieve Russell and after arriving to the Cavan venue undercooked for last April’s Play-Offs before sharing 12th, Kilpatrick is determined to put the work in to ensure he’s ready to go from the off this time around.
“I’ll be giving it the best chance I can,” he says. “I got better with each round I played at Slieve Russell which just shows the difference with competitive golf under your belt.
“Last year the winner got eight European tour starts and that’s a great opportunity. Some of the events as well – Wentworth, the Irish Open. They’re big events.”
Kilpatrick is adamant that should he qualify to tee-up on the DP World Tour next season, the calibre of player on the Irish region should stand him in good stead to compete.
“When you look at the players on the Irish region – Simon Thornton European Tour winner, Damien McGrane European Tour winner, David Higgins, Michael McGeady, Colm Moriarty…
“When you look at those players and compare yourself to that and think can you compete on the DP World Tour? It will be difficult, but yeah, there’s a chance there.”
If Kilpatrick can play his way to the DP World Tour, then it will be a first Main Tour appearance since his first and only Irish Open start at Portstewart in 2017. Better still, he’ll likely take his chance in the best form of his career knowing that regardless of result, golf is no longer his be all and end all in life.
“It’s only golf,” Kilpatrick says. “It is hard when it is your life. ‘Well I missed the cut, no pay cheque, can’t play next week, what am I going to say to my parents on the phone, my sponsors, the guys in the club?’
“Whenever I was playing full-time I found myself not going near Banbridge Golf Club because you go to the bar and you’re asked all these questions.
“It makes what Gary Hurley has done this year all the more impressive. He’s just minimised golf. Go into work. Get off the golf course, then go enjoy life.
“I remember playing the Alps Tour, missing the cut and not being able to play the next week because I couldn’t afford it. Now when it’s not my main bread winner and you don’t need it to pay an energy bill or a mortgage, it seriously helps.”
It also helps that Kilpatrick’s arguably hit his golfing prime at 40. Through his work with Dr Zach Gould, his swing speed is hovering around 122mph, even rising to 127mph when he’s swinging out of his shoes.
“I do hit it quite a long way and I think that’s very important in modern golf,” Kilpatrick says.
“If I’m able to keep up the speed for the next three or four years, could I compete on the DP World Tour? Absolutely.”
First Kilpatrick’s focus remains very much on the region where bettering this season’s accomplishments is a lofty target next year.
“Would I love to do what I did this year and win the Order of Merit? Absolutely,” he says.
“I won four times this year so I’d like to improve that. Every year you’re looking for a competitive edge, trying to improve what you did the previous year, otherwise you go backwards.”
Kilpatrick realises he’ll need to improve in order to make the next step but recognising what it takes to compete at any given stop on the region, coupled with the wisdom only age can bestow, he now has no doubt he’s found the right balance to seize his opportunity.
If only he discovered it sooner.
“If you go and play a one day pro-am in good weather on a good golf course, you know you have to shoot 6, 7, 8-under par to win,” Kilpatrick explains.
“When you look at the scoring on the main tours, having that ability to shoot low is vitally important. The PGA region is a great stepping stone for that.
“If somebody had said when I turned pro, go and do the PGA and then give it a proper go, I probably would’ve told them to get lost. But looking back, it’s something I would probably advise now.
“It was actually Barrie Trainer who said it to me back then… Do I wish I’d listened to him? I probably do, yeah.”
Kilpatrick on Shane Lowry’s short game genius;
“We won the European Team Championships at Western Gailes in Scotland together in 2007. I was playing foursomes with Lowry – I had him over the back of the 17th green on a downhill lie to a tight pin. It’s a story that will go with me to the grave. I said to him, ‘get it on there to 15, 20 feet and we’ll get a go at it’. He just got in, wiggled down a wee bit, big high flop shot… stone dead. And I just thought, ‘my God!’ I’ll never forget it.”
- 27 events
- 27 cuts made
- 22 top-10s
- 4 victories (The Philip Walton Pro-Am, Carlow Pro-Am, Bunclody Pro-Am and The Newlands Pro-Am)
- Cumulative scoring total 34-under par
- Earnings – €23,837.14