Tim Rice has set up the chance to claim a rare double after the Limerick pro fired a four-under par 68 to win the PGA in Ireland qualifier for the Titleist and FootJoy sponsored PGA Professional Championship in England next month.
Rice was a worthy winner of the Irish PGA Championship two years ago and just two of his compatriots – Waterville’s David Higgins and Galway’s David Mortimer – have won that event and the PGA Professional Championship. Unlike the pair, however, should Rice pull off the achievement, he’d do so at the first attempt.
The 42-year old paved his way into the tournament in style, reaching the turn at the Palmer Course in Straffan in one-under before flying home in a bogey-free three-under for a two-shot win.
Despite being one of the most consistent performers on the Irish PGA circuit last year, where Rice earned more than €18,000 in prize money, he has not competed in the final of the PGA’s flagship competition, an event that carries a £78,000 prize purse with £10,000 going to the winner.
“I’ve played many courses in England but not Hunstanton,” said Rice. “Neither have I played in the final before so that will be two new experiences.
“I’ve heard Hunstanton is a great course and is very challenging – I’m looking forward to it.
“As for today, the Ryder Cup course at the K Club is challenging at the best of times and we were helped by the weather. Even so I’m very pleased with the way I played, especially as I’m not playing so much these days as I’m really getting into coaching.”
Banbridge’s Richard Kilpatrick had to settle for a share of second place on two-under alongside Old Conna’s Neil O’Briain and Evolve Golf Coaching’s Michael McGeady who all qualified for the final, as did Adare Manor’s James Walsh and Douglas’ David Barry who finished fifth and sixth respectively.