With three Irish PGA victories and 11 victories in total across the country, 2016 was undoubtedly the most successful year to date in Neil O’Briain’s career and has opened up some exciting event starts for the season.
A strong performance in the playoffs at the tail end of last year meant he has qualified for a number of Challenge Tour events as well as The BMW PGA Championship in 2017. Through the Irish PGA region he has also qualified for 2017 The Irish Open.
The first hurdle of his 2017 season was trying to claim a Sunshine Tour card and work out a schedule for the year. O’Briain completed that task with ease as he closed with a one-under-par 71 to finish tied for 22nd and secure his Sunshine Tour card at the Final Stage Qualifying School in Johannesburg on St Patricks Day. The Old Conna professional carded rounds of 71, 72, 74, 65 and a final round 71 to make the top 30 and ties with two shots to spare on a seven-under-par total.
“I’m absolutely delighted to get the Sunshine Tour card and can’t wait to get back down there in late April for the start of the season”, said O’Briain. “The support from home has been unbelievable too. My dad travelled down to South Africa with me so it was great to have some support there. The support from family and friends has been amazing and I am very thankful to Donal and the members at Old Conna for their support too. It’s a great position to be in trying to work out a schedule like this and I am looking forward to working with my coaches Chris Jelly and Donal Scott over the next few weeks to prepare for the season.”
O’Briain who only landed home after a two week stint in South Africa had a 6 hour layover in Amsterdam airport yesterday and was already looking at trying to make a schedule.
“I am excited about the big tournaments like The Irish Open and The BMW at Wentworth and having some tournament golf to play on the Sunshine Tour in the lead up to Wentworth should get my game sharp”
“I had got four guaranteed starts on the Challenge Tour but now I am eligible for a Team Ireland grant too so that will get me an extra two or three starts giving me six maybe seven Challenge Tour starts in total as well as the Sunshine Tour, it’s a great position to be in.”
Scheduling has never been much of an issue for O’Briain as he juggled the Irish Region with his duties at Old Conna as assistant PGA professional under Donal Gleeson.
“I will have to sit down with Paul my manager from Trinity to discuss the logistics of it all and it’s very exciting’’.
One thing we can all take from O’Briain’s story is that success doesn’t come easy but with hard work determination and a good plan anything is achievable. Best of luck for 2017 Neil, you deserve every bit of it.