It all starts today at Galgorm Castle and Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy is the local favourite making his mark in the professional game and would like nothing better than a winning performance in front of home crowds at Galgorm Resort & Spa Northern Ireland Open, presented by Modest! Golf.
Image from Golffile
Tournament week at the bustling Ballymena venue has finally arrived and it promises to be a week-long festival of golf where the best players in Europe will compete in the brand-new Shootout Sunday format.
McElroy turned professional just over 12 months ago and in time for last year’s NI Open at Galgorm Castle but narrowly missed the cut by one shot. The 24-year-old’s best finish came in the inaugural 2013 NI Open when he finished ninth with rounds of 67, 70, 74, 67 while still an amateur.
This year he has made great strides and got off to a fast start by winning the first stage of the PGA EuroPro Tour School in March and finished tied second in final qualifying.
“I had no category at the start of the season so I had to play my way through the PGA EuroPro Tour School. That got me a full category on the EuroPro Tour and the first two tournaments I finished second and joint second and that gave me a great boost up the Order of Merit.” said McElroy.
The former West of Ireland champion has also played a handful of European Challenge Tour events and was tied 16th in France at the end of July in the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge where he closed with final round 66. But this week’s NI Open has been earmarked for some time.
“At the start of the year Fergie (Wallace) and I targeted the NI Open as a tournament we could do well at. I’m really looking forward to it, getting stuck in and trying to win,” said McElroy, noting the support he gets from Team Ireland and Wallace, who heads up PerformanceACTIVE, Official Technology Partner to the NI Open.
“I have great support from the likes of Team Ireland and the support and advice I get from Fergie is invaluable,” adds McElroy, who will have Wallace caddying for him at Galgorm after he was on his bag for the Irish Open at Portstewart.
Managed by Mitchell Tweedie at Octagon, McElroy receives at least six Challenge Tour starts and this combined with the EuroPro Tour “gives him a pretty full schedule”. The NI Open is a key tournament for Irish players as it generates reciprocal invites for home players to compete in other tournaments across Europe.
McElroy is still learning his trade but continues to make progress. “It is different, there’s no doubt about it. It sounds obvious but there are so many good golfers out here,” he says.
“It’s small margins at this level. On the main tours, they maybe hit it a bit longer, hole a few more putts, they have the full package. One thing I did notice is all the top guys have their set routines, that’s hugely important and how to think on the golf course and react to situations.”
“I look forward to big weeks like the NI Open and the Irish Open. I know myself when I play well I’m capable of making plenty of birdies. You just need to learn to get comfortable out here, playing in bigger tournaments and in front of bigger crowds. Hopefully then it becomes second nature.”
McElroy has played Galgorm many times and won the 2013 NI Amateur Open there. He will be hoping local knowledge can go a long way, especially in front of the home crowds.
“The secret at Galgorm is hitting it straight off the tee, you must find the fairways. It’s always great seeing familiar faces in weeks like this and hopefully I can give the home fans something to cheer about.”