Belfast Telegraph

Kids' world golf champ Tom is after Rory's No.1 spot

By Joanne Sweeney

He is the diminutive world junior champion golfer who virtually lives and breathes the sport.

Tom McKibbin is inspired by world number one Rory McIlroy's success and counts Graeme McDowell and Michael Hoey as friends and mentors.

The Newtownabbey lad won the US Kids Golf World Championship at Pinehurst in North Carolina over the weekend, beating 150 of the top juniors on the international amateur circuit.

And he is also tipped as having the potential to emulate Rory.

Even the legendary Gary Player is aware of the waves the 12-year-old has made so far. Yesterday, he tweeted him to say: "Congrats @tommckibbin8 on your @USKidsGolfFDN World Championship victory. The harder you practise the luckier you get."

The Belfast Royal Academy pupil could not dream of such success without the support of his parents, Robin and Sara. Since taking up golf three years ago Tom and his mum and dad have flown back and forth to the US for tournaments - several times over the summer and again in December.

Tom, who also came eighth in the Press Thornton Future Masters Golf Tournament at Alabama, said winning the US Kids Golf World Championship had been "amazing". After hitting 69-75-73 over three days, he added on Twitter: "I did it! I'm the world champion!"

The first time the youngster picked up a golf club aged eight, it was for a lark with a friend. But now the sport means everything to him. After being asked what he does when not playing or practising, he replied: "I'm watching golf."

Tom dreams of one day playing at Augusta, Georgia - the home of the Masters and a Major that Rory McIlroy has yet to claim - later in his career. But his talent comes with a steep price for his parents, who cover his expenses alone because their son has no commercial sponsor.

Robin, said last night from the US: "I dread to think just what this has cost us over the last years, but he has a talent and a will to succeed so we want to support him the best we can.

"We cover all of Tom's costs ourselves. As he is an only child, I guess we can devote all of our time and money to his talent. I can't put a number to it as it would frighten me. All our holidays now are attached to golf tournaments that Tom is playing at.

"We cover all his sports costs ourselves. To be honest, Sara and I have had to put some things off, like replacing the car or doing any work to the house."

Robin is a 45-year-old intellectual property rights manager who works in Dubai to finance Tom's golf while his former bank manager mum (44) devotes her time to looking after Tom and taking him to his three golf clubs - Greenisland, Holywood and Royal Portrush - where he practises and plays.

The only condition that Tom's parents place on their son is that he continues to do well at school - and so far he has held up his side of the bargain.

Belfast Telegraph


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