McKibbin looking forward to special week in Northern Ireland

Mark McGowan

Tom McKibbin (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Tom McKibbin is excited to tee it up as a DP World Tour winner on home soil at this week’s ISPS HANDA World Invitational presented by AVIV Clinics.

The 20-year-old entered the winner’s circle for the first time at the Porsche European Open earlier this year after graduating from the European Challenge Tour in 2022, and this week makes his first start in his home country since becoming the ninth player from Northern Ireland to win on the DP World Tour.

This week’s event is tri-sanctioned by the DP World Tour, Ladies European Tour and LPGA Tour, with men’s and women’s tournaments played on the same courses at the same time for two equal prize funds of US$1.5million. Competitors will each play one round at Galgorm and Castlerock Golf Club on Thursday and Friday, with the final two rounds of action taking place at Galgorm.


There will be a cut in both tournaments to the leading 60 professionals and ties after the second round and then a further cut after the third round to the leading 35 players and ties in each event. On all four tournament days, groups at both courses will alternate between male and female competitors.

Home favourite McKibbin is joined in the field by Ryder Cup hopefuls Victor Perez and Robert MacIntyre, the latter being the current occupant of the final automatic qualification spot on the European Points List, with just three events of the qualifying campaign remaining.

Ewen Ferguson, also of Scotland, returns to defend his crown in Northern Ireland having won his second DP World Tour title at last year’s event, with fellow past champions Daniel Gavins, Jack Senior and Stephanie Meadow also teeing it up on the island of Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s Meadow, who like McKibbin is one of Galgorm’s Touring Professionals, will be joined in the women’s field by Republic of Ireland’s Leona Maguire, who will make her second Solheim Cup appearance next month, Major Champion Georgia Hall and Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen, who finished fourth in this event in 2022.

“I’ve played this event the last couple of years but it’s special to come back here this week and I’m very much looking forward to it and it should be a great week,” McKibbin said, “I’m very proud. I think they’re great venues they have for the event and it’s set up nicely with the two fields, the men and the women, and I think it’s a pretty cool event.

“Castlerock is a good course. I think it’ll play quite tricky this week with a few of what are usually par fives playing as par fours this week. It’ll be interesting to see the scoring, here at Galgorm is great, it gets better every year. I’m looking forward to playing it, I’d say it’s one of the tougher venues we play all year so it should be good.”

Defending champion Ferguson is unsurprisingly eager to get back on grounds with such fond memories attached. “It helps coming back to some of the courses that I know towards the end of the year,” he admitted. “I love Galgorm to bits, I have always played well there. I have not played Castlerock before so I am gauging it. It is a really nice course and hopefully I can get some tips as I am playing it. I feel good coming into the rest of the season, hopefully starting this week I can get a [good] result.”

MacIntyre has made no secret of his desire to be part of Luke Donald’s side when Europe attempt to recapture the Ryder Cup next month. “I knew winning Italy last year was massive for the qualification and gave me a great start,” the left-handed Scot said. “I just had to play good golf from then on in and be there or thereabouts. Obviously I have timed my run pretty nicely with the result at the Scottish Open. I have been playing good golf. There has been a lot going on within my team, a couple of changes in there back and forth. Again, just yourself, trust the team around you and keep going.”

With the AIG Women’s Open Championship held on a heathland course last week, it’s been a shile since Leona Maguire’s skills were competitively tested on a pure links layout but that’s exactly what she’ll face at Castlerock. “I think on links in particular, I think with the winds, there’s some shots that you can hit four different clubs and there’s not really a right or a wrong club. It’s whatever you think at that moment in time,” the two-time LPGA Tour winner said.

“Whereas over here on this side at Galgorm it’s more target golf and you’re just going to hit it straight at the pin. An adjustment in mindset, but I think that’s the fun of it. I think it’s nice when you have to be a little bit more creative and use your imagination a little bit, and it’s not just stand up and hit it wherever you want. I think that’s the beauty of links golf.

“We played Castlerock pretty calm yesterday in one wind. You can hit driver-wedge one day and it could be driver-three wood the next day, so it kind of depends and you have to sort of judge it when you get there and take each one as it comes.

“I think the Irish fans are fantastic to come out and support their own, whether it’s golf or whether it’s Women’s World Cup a few weeks ago or whatever it is. I think it’s always nice to have people wishing you well and rooting you on and wanting to see you do well.”

Not quite defending champion, Stephanie Meadow still has an emotional attachment to Galgorm not just as the club’s touring professional but as a past tournament winner here in 2019. “North West Ireland can be pretty unpredictable with weather, so yesterday we both played there,” she said of herself and Maguire who have become quite close as they travel the LPGA circuit together. “We stood on the range and it was pouring and windy and cold, and an hour later it was sunny and we had everything, all the layers off. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

“That was such an amazing memory to have all my friends and family here when I won. My husband was on the bag. To do it at a golf course where I took lessons up on the range there when I was 10 years old, I mean, talk about a transformation. Obviously a super special memory and I’m excited to be back here again.”

Spectator entry to Castlerock is FREE both days, while daily and season tickets are available for Galgorm. Children under-13 go FREE all week.

The World Invitational is a family friendly event with plenty to see and do for all the family. Book your tickets today and be part of this amazing festival of world class golf by clicking here.

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