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Line of sight: Tom McKibbin is aiming for more progress

Line of sight: Tom McKibbin is aiming for more progress

�INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Line of sight: Tom McKibbin is aiming for more progress

Holywood amateur Tom McKibbin is on his way to the final stage of the EuroPro Tour's Qualifying School as he aims to take his first steps into the pro game.

McKibbin finished fifth in the first round of qualifying at The Players Club in Bristol to book a place at next week's final qualifying stage, which is played across three days at Studley Wood Golf Club and the Oxfordshire Golf, Hotel and Spa.

The 17-year-old, who missed the cut at the Irish Open at Galgorm Castle two weeks ago, backed up a level-par 70 on Tuesday at the Codrington course at The Players Club with the same score on day two to make it well inside the top 28 that progress to final qualifying.

That result has already guaranteed him category 14 playing rights on the EuroPro Tour for next year - provided he turns professional - but the aim now is to finish as high up the board as possible at final qualifying, where the top 30 will earn category three playing rights, which earns them invites to the majority of events next season.

There was disappointment for Clandeboye's Aaron Lennie and Galgorm Castle amateur Jordan Hood, however, as they both failed to make the cut at two other first stage qualifiers.

Both players finished four shots off the pace at their respective tournaments, Lennie playing at Luton Hoo and Hood at Donnington Grove.

Lennie had been in a good position after day one, sitting in the 28th and final spot, but struggled to a six-over 79 in his second round to drop out of contention, while Hood needed a good second round to stand a chance but could only record a four-over 76.

Ireland's Ronan Mullarney (Galway), John Hickey (Cork) and Luke Donnelly (PGA Catalunya) all qualified for the final stage of Q School alongside McKibbin.

At the PGA Professional Championship in Staffordshire, Newcastle's Simon Thornton is in a tie for fourth at the halfway stage but is already five shots off the lead.

The Tulfarris professional fired a four-under 68 in his second round at Trentham Golf Club in Stoke-on-Trent, which took him to six under par for the tournament, but that's well adrift of runaway leader Matthew Ford (England).

Ford backed up a first-round 66 with a five-under 67 in his second and is 11 under at the midway point, three shots clear of England's Jordan Godwin, who is second on eight under.

Northern Ireland's Cameron Clark, who is professional at Moor Hall in the West Midlands, is in a tie for 38th at two over par after back-to-back rounds of 73.

On the European Tour, Open champion Shane Lowry makes an earlier than anticipated return to action today when he tees it up at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club in Virginia Water, Surrey.

The Offaly man declared that he would take several weeks off after missing the cut at the Irish Open at Galgorm Castle prior to returning to the USA for the Masters, but restrictions imposed in Ireland forced him to rethink that plan and he will instead compete at the European Tour's flagship event, which begins today.

Lowry tees off his opening round at 12.15pm, with Padraig Harrington the first local man off at 7.45am and Graeme McDowell getting under way at 8.15am.

At the second women's Major of the year, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Aronimink Golf Club, Stephanie Meadow (Galgorm Castle) and Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell) are both in action. Maguire tees off her first round at 12.54pm, with Meadow off at 5.23pm.

Belfast Telegraph