Delight for teen golf sensation Tom McKibbin after invite to tee off with Rory McIlroy at Irish Open pro-am
A teenage golf sensation has been invited to play alongside Rory McIlroy ahead of the Irish Open.
Tom McKibbin, who is just 13, has been making his name in the sport since the tender age of nine.
The Newtownabbey star currently plays off the exceptional handicap of 5.5.
A second-year pupil at Belfast Royal Academy, Tom won the World Junior Championships last year and the Junior Honda Classic in Florida earlier this year.
A member of Holywood Golf Club, Tom has been invited by the Rory Foundation to take part in the pro-am event ahead of the Irish Open later this month.
"I met Rory while I was in Dubai last October and we got chatting while we were both practising," he explained.
"When I won the Honda Classic in Florida in January, Rory sent me a message and invited me to play golf with him.
"I have to thank Rory for inviting me to play in the pro-am at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Not only do I get a day off school but I also get to play alongside one of the best golfers in the world.
"It's getting close now and I'm pretty excited. I've been practising as often as possible."
The Irish Open takes place at the K Club in Dublin from May 19-22.
It is being hosted by the Rory Foundation, a charitable trust set up by McIlroy.
McIlroy said: "Tom McKibbin is a great talent.
"I played a round with Tom in Florida recently and he is the real deal.
"At only 13 years of age, I think he has a remarkable golfing future ahead of him. Having seen him play a couple of times now, he impresses me more each time.
"And I can think of no better place to showcase his talents than at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at the K Club."
Tom's interest in golf was sparked a few years ago after a friend invited him to a driving range.
Ever since he's been taking the golfing world by storm.
"He plays a couple of times a week on the course and practices on top of that," said mum Sara.
"People often think he has come from a family of golfers but he didn't, his dad Robin and I would play, we'd like to say he got his talent from us, but we don't think he did.
"A few years ago he went to the driving range with his friend and from then he just really loved golf."
It has been confirmed that One Direction singer Niall Horan, retired jockey AP McCoy, award-winning actor James Nesbitt and ex-Northern Ireland, Tottenham and Arsenal footballer Pat Jennings will also take part in the event.