McKibbin: I cannot wait to test myself against the pros at World Invitational
The ISPS Handa World Invitational, presented by Modest! Golf, has attracted star names from both the men's and women's game but there are also a number of elite amateurs looking forward to teeing it up alongside the professionals at Galgorm Castle and Massereene later this month.
Tom McKibbin needs little introduction in these parts as, although still only aged 16, he has been winning junior tournaments around the world for years.
"I'm very grateful to have got the call from Modest! who invited me to play in this year's ISPS Handa World Invitational. Obviously I had no hesitation in saying yes," enthused the Royal Belfast student, who has mixed sitting his GCSE exams with golf.
"The last month has been pretty crazy. I've been in places like America, France and Austria competing and only been home for a couple of days. It's a really busy part of the season, but then I had to take a month off to do my exams."
On his travels, McKibbin won the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley in the States and also secured the prestigious Peter McEvoy Trophy in a play-off at Copt Heath in England.
McKibbin will arrive at Galgorm and Massereene fresh from representing Ireland at the Boys' Home Internationals at Ashburnham Golf Club in Wales.
"I can't wait to play. The Home Internationals in Wales will be good preparation for Galgorm," added the +3 handicapper who plays out of Holywood and Galgorm Castle Golf Clubs. "These opportunities to play alongside the professionals are great markers to see where your game is.
"I've been lucky enough to play in a few pro events already (including the NI Open at Galgorm). Each time you play, you know immediately what you have to do to improve because they all play at such a high level.
"I've played enough tournaments now that I don't really get nervous anymore. I just turn up and try to play my own game. To make both cuts, that would be a good goal for the week."
It remains to be seen if his dad Robin will be on the bag for tournament week.
"Tom should be okay, he knows both courses well. It's almost as if Tom has outgrown me. I'm literally a bag carrier for him if he needs me as a caddie," said Robin, who along with wife Sara will be supporting their son.
Other key names in action will be Jessica Ross and Colm Campbell, who both booked their place by winning the first staging of the Ulster Strokeplay Championship.