Bring home the silverware! That was the call from students and teachers at Belfast’s Ben Madigan Preparatory School as youngster Tom McKibbin — tipped to be Northern Ireland’s next golf sensation — jetted off to America yesterday.
The nine-year-old from Newtownabbey will compete in a series of high profile tournaments in Florida against some of the world’s best junior golfers as he aims to qualify for the 2013 World Championships.
The Ben Madigan pupil will follow in the footsteps of his hero, Rory McIlroy, by playing at the prestigious PGA National course in Palm Beach, Florida, at the Junior Honda Classic this weekend.
And this will be closely followed by the 2012 US Kids Golf Holiday Classic on December 21-22.
He will also take time out from the various competitions to train under the tutelage of renowned PGA golf instructor Don Law at the Port St Lucie PGA Golf Academy.
Tom’s meteoric rise over the past 12 months has seen him win the Irish Kids 2012 World Championship qualifiers at Portmarnock Golf Links outside Dublin before travelling to Pinehurst, North Carolina, in August to compete at the 2012 World Championships.
He also teed off against the best young golfers from across Europe at the Kids Golf European Championships at Gullane Golf Club, Scotland, in June.
Tom has been selected as a member of the Golf Union of Ireland’s Ulster Branch coaching panel and is coached by Johnny Foster, the current coach of European Tour professional Gareth Maybin.
Tom’s father, Robin McKibbin, says: “Tom is a talented young golfer for his age and has a real passion for the sport and is always out practising on the golf course or at the driving range.
“The last 12 months has seen him successfully compete in a variety of competitions across the UK, Ireland and America and we are very proud of what he has achieved.
“He loves playing golf and does it with a smile on his face and, as long as he continues to enjoy it, we will continue to support him as best we can.
Principal of Ben Madigan Preparatory School, Mrs VM McCaig, said: “All staff and students at Ben Madigan are particularly proud of Tom’s achievements as he is a model student and modest young boy.
“We wish him all the best with his upcoming tournaments and we look forward to following his blossoming golf career over the next few years.”
Coach Johnny Foster, said: “Tom is a fun young person to coach and what stands out is how much he enjoys the game and wants to learn.
“These are key components of any good student and with the promise he is showing hopefully he can go on and enjoy the game for a long time.”