Rice ties course record on the way to Ballymore Newlands Pro-Am victory

Peter Finnan

From left, Brian Cosgrove (Head Professional, Newlands), Joe Meagher (President, Newlands), Patrick Phelan (Ballymore), Shay Brennan (Captain, Newlands), Conor Dillon (PGA), Tim Rice (Winner).

Peter Finnan

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Limerick’s Tim Rice secured his third Irish Region PGA victory of 2024 with a two-shot win over Niall Kearney at the Ballymore Newlands Pro-Am in south Dublin, and equalled the course record along the way.

The Elavon Order of Merit leader was in scintillating form, carding seven birdies, including five on the front nine to take control of affairs, and set an early clubhouse target that none of the later starters could get near.

As ever, Rice in his constant quest for perfection was tinkering with his equipment on the eve of the event as he took to the practice putting green with Newlands PGA Professional Brian Cosgrove with five potential putters to use on the day.

“I was close to putting a Padraig Dooley special, a Bullseye putter from 1960 in play today” admitted Rice. “I was on the putting green with Brian and I couldn’t miss a putt with it last night. I rang Padraig when I got home as i was going to put it in play but he gave me about an hour of a lecture on the science behind the ball and the old putters and he said it might not work so I ended that idea and went to something else”

The putter that got the nod ended up being a TaylorMade Spider X and Rice was fast out of the traps with it.

“I started with three birdies, so I was away in a hack” Rice said with a grin “Once that happens, it sets the tone for a score, it was serious momentum.”

Scoring came easy for Rice who did all the simple things right as he tackled the tight test of precision Newlands demands . He only missed one green and birdied all of the par 5’s and proceeded to go out in 30 and home in 34 for a superb course record equaling 64.

“I wasn’t in any trouble all day really.” said Rice. “I am hitting the ball quite straight at the moment and not getting myself in any trouble. I’m giving myself a lot of chances and I did putt well today for the first time in a while. It was that simple really. The greens were amazing and rolled so true, so that really helps too.”

Despite shooting a score that nobody had ever bettered around Newlands, the news that he was now the co-record holder brought a smile to Rice’s face but he did admit jokingly “I am a bit annoyed it’s not a solo course record as i had a putt for eagle on the last and missed it!”

The grind for Rice is a daily pursuit and he was asked was this as close to perfect as he has experienced in a while?

“No, I’m still tortured” he admitted. “There are still certain shots that i would love to be able to play and when I try them, they don’t always come off and it really annoys me. So no, I’m far from where I want to be.”

“I have been playing better this last year though and I have stuck at something for a while now. So that’s that’s been a big change for me because normally I give up on things very quickly.”

It’s clear that Rice loves the challenge a course like Newlands poses. It demands you plot your way around and it’s not the typical ‘bomb and gouge’ show so many modern designs offer.

“All these parklands we play around Dublin, they’re very underrated” said Rice.

“Courses like Newlands, Elm Park, The Castle, Rathfarnham they are proper good tests of golf, you have to hit the ball straight. It’s a pity the way modern golf has gone actually, it seems like accuracy has become something that some have just given up on so I really enjoy what a venue like Newlands asks of your game”

Just behind Rice on the leaderboard was Niall Kearney who was also among the early starters and after turning in level-par, made six birdies on his back nine (eight in total) for a five-under tally that was a shot clear of Simon Thornton and Richie O’Donovan who finished joint third on -4. The trio of David Higgins, Liam Grehan and Patrick Geraghty were two shots further adrift in a tie for fifth.

The focus on the PGA region now turns towards the K Club and the lucrative €100,000 Pro-Am which takes place on Monday and Tuesday of next week, and naturally, Rice is looking forward to it.

“I mean, obviously it’s a big event,” he said. “Big field too obviously with a lot of guys coming from outside the PGA to play, so standards will be very high, and then we’ve got the PGA Championship coming up soon at Palmerstown House in early August so that’s our premier event. We’re all trying to peak for those so hopefully I will be in contention, that’s all you can ask”

This was just the third year of the new Ballymore Newlands Pro-Am after a twenty-five-year hiatus. It has gone from strength to strength driven by Newlands PGA Professional Brian Cosgrove who was again delighted with how the day unfolded.

“It was another successful event, very happy with it. The event was sold out very quickly so very happy, a huge success and a great day. The members really got behind it and there was a great buzz about the whole day and what a score by Tim Rice.”

“Making Pro-Ams like this happen is a huge team effort and requires great financial support too.” admitted Cosgrove.

“That support again came from Ballymore and Patrick Phelan, Managing Director of Ballymore in Ireland who have backed this event for the last three years now. They are good people, work hard and are a very professional company, they have been great sponsors to have on board. With the support of Ballymore and the Newlands members I really see this event continuing to get bigger and better in the next few years.”


Tim Rice after his course record 64 at Newlands

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