Gareth Shaw is hoping to take full advantage of his home track at Galgorm Castle Golf Club as he leads a 27-strong Irish contingent into the €170,000 Northern Ireland Open Challenge, presented by Clannah and XJET.
Shaw, who grabbed some serious headlines in his homeland with a fifth place finish in the Irish Open back in June, will have an army of home support willing him to succeed this week with an estimated crowd of 30,000 expected to flock through Galgorm’s gates over the next four days.
“I’m looking forward to competing at home and on a course I am familiar with. Hopefully the home support will feed in with family, friends and my coaches around this week. My game is very solid and it’s a great opportunity,” said Shaw.
“I won the Ulster Youths here in ’96, and then finished in a tie for third here a couple of years ago in the EuroPro event a couple of years ago, so I have a decent bit of experience.
“You’ve got to be able to hit the ball how you want it. It’s a good course, very fair. The fairways are pretty wide in spots but if you hit bad tee shots you get punished and the greens are excellent.”
The Northern Ireland Open will also host top European players such as Portugal’s José-Felipe Lima, who is second on the Challenge Tour Rankings with €91,842.
Lima has been so consistent all season and, with no less than eight top 10 finishes, including tied third at last week’s Rolex Trophy, he has already secured his European Tour card for next season.
Lima is closely pursued by Italy’s Andrea Pavan and the French duo of Victor Riu and François Calmels.
Should Calmels triumph at Galgorm he would gain automatic promotion to the main tour with three wins this season. Australia’s Daniel Gaunt, who is familiar with Galgorm having finished runner-up in a previous EuroPro Tour event, is another man to watch over the coming days.
Note: Tickets for the Northern Ireland Open Challenge are still on sale and can be purchased from Galgorm Castle Golf Club (028 2564 6161) or at the entrance on the day