ROYAL Dublin GC’s Niall Kearney became the first Irishman to be crowned the PGA number one following his wire-to-wire victory in the Titleist PGA playoffs.
The 26-year-old star rose to the occasion over the PGA Sultan Course at Antalya Golf Club in Turkey with rounds of 65, 67 and a closing 67 to finish on 14-under-par – two shots clear of the pack.
His victory secured him his main aim of a place in next year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, but also brought with it a place in the Great Britain/Ireland PGA Cup team and a cheque for £2,000.
Kearney, who won with his dad Joe on his bag and his mum Fiona watching from the sidelines, said: “It’s huge to be the number one. I played really well all week.
“I led from day one which was difficult at times as I felt a bit of pressure. My game was there and it was just one of those weeks. It’s great I can come out here and play against the top guys from the regions and capture it.
“I’ve never played the BMW PGA Championship and that was my goal coming out here. It’s going to be a dream come true. I’ve watched it on TV every year and to be part of it is going to be a real treat.”
Kearney, who played Walker Cup in 2009, held a two-shot lead going into the decisive third round of the £15,000 tournament.
He took a firm grip as he opened with a hat-trick of birdies from the first before dropping his first shot in 30 holes at the sixth. He instantly hit back with a birdie at the seventh and added one more birdie at 14 parring the remaining holes to seal a conclusive and competent victory over Englishmen Jason Levermore and former Tour winner David Dixon. Both will join Kearney at Wentworth next May and will also be GB&I team-mates at next September’s PGA Cup match against the United States, being held at CordeValle in California.
The PGA Cup is the Ryder Cup equivalent for PGA Professionals and features 10 players. The rest of the side will be completed next year with six from the PGA Professional Championship in June, with captain Jon Bevan having one pick.
Bevan was enthused by Kearney’s qualification. He said: “Niall has got a great pedigree. He’s played the Walker Cup, sampling match play at the highest level that he could at the time and will be a great asset.”
Kearney, who played on Challenge Tour this season, is now weighing up whether to have a stab at Asian Tour school in January 2015.