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Could amateur John Ross Galbraith be Northern Ireland's next golfing hero?

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland amateur golfer John Ross Galbraith has outlined his ambition to enter the professional ranks and make it on to the European Tour.

To that end the 21-year-old has set his sights on a September date at Qualifying School, which could take him into the big time.

The Whitehead club member will do so in confident mood. He is in the form of his young life having won the prestigious North of Ireland title last week at Royal Portrush.

This followed a fine run of recent form and last year's success in the Irish Close Championship.

Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy were all previous winners of that tournament and Galbraith now hopes to follow in their footsteps again by playing on the European Tour.

Achieving that through Q-School, as it is known, can be a tricky task with hardened professionals and the top European amateurs all fighting for places...and livelihoods.

Galbraith said: "I'm going to Q-School in September as an amateur. I'll see how I go on and take it from there. The ultimate goal for me is to be playing on the European Tour.

"There are three the first stage it is the top 25 who go into the next stage and then the same again to get to the final stage. If you get to the final stage you are near enough guaranteed something like starts on the Challenge Tour and if you get in the top 15 you have your European Tour card. That will be the aim for everyone playing at Q-School and I'll be no different.

"There will be former European Tour players playing and lots of top amateur golfers.

"It will be tough but if I can play well I believe I have every chance of doing well."

Like just about every amateur golfer in Ireland, Galbraith was motivated by the performance of Paul Dunne at the Open. The 22-year-old from Wicklow took to the first tee in Monday's final round at St Andrews as the joint leader before a 78 scuppered his chances of a staggering victory.

"I am friendly with Paul and have been away at a few tournaments with him this year," said Galbraith, who is an outstanding putter.

"He is a class act and it was incredible to watch him at the Open. I have played with Paul many times and I know how good a player he is and where my game is at compared to his.

"What he did at St Andrews gives me incentive and belief that I could go on and play at the Open."

If that dream comes true, John Ross will look to show the same steely resolve on show at Portrush last Friday when he overcame Lurgan's David Sutton 2&1 in the semi-finals and Rosslare's Gary Collins at the second extra play-off hole in the decider to clinch North of Ireland glory.

Galbraith also battled against difficult weather conditions with ferocious winds gusting across the course.

It was a long day starting at 7.45am and finishing at 6.30pm but well worth it in the end.

"I was down in both matches, the semi-final and final. The final was really tough because we were battling the elements," explained the big Rory McIlroy fan.

"There were really strong winds but I dug deep and ground it out, winning at the 20th hole. It was such a long day. When Gary missed the putt on the 20th hole which gave me the win I was relieved as well as happy. It took a few moments to sink in and it was a great feeling.

"It is such a big tournament, especially for players from Northern Ireland. It is a trophy I always wanted to win," said Galbraith, who thanked his fellow Whitehead members for their support at the tournament and in particular club pro Colin Farr for his advice throughout the year.

He added: "My mum and dad are also a huge help to me. If it wasn't for mum and dad I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing. They are my number one supporters. They were actually away on holiday when I won the North and the last time I won they were away on holiday as well. They were so happy for me."

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