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One Direction star Niall Horan's search for the next Rory McIlroy

Modest! Golf will be the official partner of the Northern Ireland Open at Ballymena’s Galgorm Castle in July.

By Ali Gordon

One Direction star Niall Horan can’t wait to return to Northern Ireland this summer.

The 22-year-old’s golf management company, Modest! Golf, will be the official partner of the Northern Ireland Open at Ballymena’s Galgorm Castle in July.

“When One Direction were on tour I always loved playing in Belfast — it’s always nice to get back,” Niall told Sunday Life on Wednesday.

“Same with Dublin, I just love being back in Ireland.

“Obviously I’m good mates with Rory McIlroy and I’ve a few other friends in Northern Ireland so it’ll be a good excuse to catch up with them.”

X Factor finalists One Direction called a break last year following a hectic 2015 with the On The Road Again tour.

After the boyband put on almost 80 concerts in less than nine months, Niall is enjoying his well-earned break.

“I’m loving it — it’s nice to be able to do your own thing and have a bit of time to yourself but we’ve been busy with Modest! Golf,” said the singer from Mullingar.

Amazing

“The tour was pretty full on and we were on the road for a long time so I was never really home that much but it’s nice to get to spend some time with my friends and play a bit more golf.

“I’ve got to see some of the biggest sporting events too which has been amazing and hopefully I’ll get to go to a few more this summer.

“We were away at the Masters last month which was an amazing experience. We spent a bit of time meeting lots of great people so it’s an exciting time for us. We went out fishing on the lake too and got to play the course at Augusta which was like a dream come true for me.”

Fans will be able to catch a glimpse of Niall at Galgorm Castle Golf Club outside Ballymena on July 28 to 31 where Modest! Golf is on the look-out for Northern Ireland’s next golfing superstar.

“Northern Ireland has had so many good golfers over the years and there are so many good courses there too,” he said.

“For such a small place, it’s certainly made up for it sports wise — you’ve got Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell and loads of talent coming through by the looks of things.

Reasons

“There’s been a lot of talk about Tom McKibbin and a few other young golfers in Northern Ireland so we’re looking forward to seeing what’s out there, that’s one of the reasons we’ve invited Tom into the Northern Ireland Open.

“It’s important to give young talent an opportunity to learn at the highest level.”

Last week Newtownabbey teen Tom, who won the 2015 World Junior Championships, played in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Pro-Am.

Niall met the 13-year-old rising star at An Evening with Rory last Tuesday before playing in the Pro-Am event at the K Club the following day.

Niall said: “Ireland has produced some amazing golfers so we’d love to find another.

“The Northern Ireland Open is a fantastic event and I think the amount of time, money and effort that has been invested into it shows that it’s going forward and will continue to grow over the next few years. It’s a big fixture on the Challenge Tour.

“I’m very excited, and privileged, to be supporting it.”

This weekend Modest! Golf will host their first event in London, a gala evening followed by a pro-am golf event, along with Major-winner Justin Rose.

Support

Hosted by Kirsty Gallagher and Gaby Logan, Niall’s pal Olly Murs will provide the entertainment while Jamie Oliver cooks up a storm for guests.

“We’re all really looking forward to the Horan and Rose event, it’s the first real big thing we’ve done as a golf management company,” said Niall.

“I’ve become good mates with Justin Rose so it’s great to be teaming up with him to raise money for Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens which is something very close to my heart.”

Ahead of the event, Niall has also designed a limited edition charity t-shirt sold on online store represent.com/niall. On Saturday, just 12 hours after its launch, he had raised over £60,000 from sales for Irish Autism Action and The Kate and Justin Rose Foundation.

“We’ve had a great response from people and got loads of support from a whole load of famous faces so it’ll be a really good night just after the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth,” he added.

But Niall, who will join a host of stars at the pro-am next Monday, admits he shouldn’t tempt fate with his own golfing progress.

He said: “I started playing a few years ago but wasn’t that good. I’m getting to play quite a lot now which is great and I’m getting a lot better. Well, I think I am anyway.

“I probably shouldn’t say that though in case it all goes wrong!”

Tickets for the Northern Ireland Open are free and can be secured by registering online at www.niopen.golf

To purchase one of Niall's limited edition t-shirts, visit represent.com/niall

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