Brave cancer teen to be Michael Hoey's caddie for Northern Ireland Open
As the Northern Ireland Open starts today, all eyes will be on local favourite Michael Hoey, but it will also be a big day for brave Belfast teenager Kathleen Maguire.
She's been chosen to be the caddie for the top golfer over the weekend as part of an initiative from cancer charity Clic Sergent.
The 19-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer of the blood, in April and has had to defer university for a year while she receives chemotherapy.
Many students struggle to deal with the pressure of sitting their A-level exams, but as she was revising in April, the then Belfast Royal Academy pupil received the devastating news that she would also be battling cancer.
"It was a bit of a shock, you don't expect it when you are just 18. You don't expect to be diagnosed with cancer," she told the Belfast Telegraph. "I had a lot of weight loss and infections so I was asked to go in for a check-up and they found it from there after blood tests and a biopsy."
Kathleen said it added to the stress of her A-levels and picking university choices, but that it made her more determined to succeed. She said: "I got the grades I needed to get into the psychology and business course I wanted to do in the University of Ulster at Magee."
However, Kathleen is deferring going off to university for a year because of the demands of her chemotherapy treatment at the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital.
In the meantime, Clic Sergent has also put Kathleen in contact with people about doing further education courses over the year, such as an additional A-levels, which she says she is looking at.
She will also now be spending this weekend, from Thursday to Sunday, carrying the bag for the top golfer and admits some of her relatives are jealous.
"I was excited about it. It gives you something to do between waiting for treatments," she said, adding that the treatments are every two weeks.
Hoey has already been part of the initiative, taking a caddie nominated by Clic Sargent at the Irish Open last year.
He was approached to take part as Clic Sargent was the charity of the tournament and readily agreed to take part again.
Clic Sargent's Home to Home appeal is also continuing.
This is a fundraiser to create homes for families who have long distances to travel for their loved one's treatment close to hospital.
A home is being created by the charity on the Falls Road opposite the Royal Victoria Hospital with a second one planned for College Gardens in south Belfast, close to the City Hospital.
The Northern Ireland Open starts today at the Galgorm Castle Golf Club and runs through the weekend to Sunday. For details contact 028 25 646161 or visit www.niopen.co.uk.
STORY SO FAR
Ballymoney man Michael Hoey is one of the rising stars of the golfing world following our other greats Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke. He claimed his first European title in Portugal in 2009 and just last month took his fifth European and ninth professional overall win at the Russian Open. The 34-year-old is one of the favourites at the NI Open this weekend.