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Northern Ireland Open: Amateur stars are handed a big challenge

By Robert Jones

Elite golfing amateurs from across Northern Ireland will have their skills put to their test at the Northern Ireland Open at the end of August, thanks to the Golfing Union of Ireland.

Four elite amateurs, John-Ross Galbraith, Colm Campbell, Cormac Sharvin and Dermot McElroy, have been selected by the Union to battle it out in the European Challenge Tour event at Galgorm Castle Golf Club.

Taking place from August 28-31, the golfers will join a 156-player field for the opportunity to see if they have what it takes to challenge some of the leading professionals in Europe and win a share of the coveted £140,000 prize money.

Whitehead Golf Club's Galbraith will be hoping to continue his success from earlier in the year when he won the 2014 Irish Amateur Close, but East of Ireland winner Campbell, from Warrenpoint, 2013 Irish Amateur Close champion Sharvin, from Ardglass and local favourite McElroy will provide stiff opposition.

McElroy, from Ballymena, put in a sterling performance at last year's inaugural event to finish six-under and in ninth position.

"I am hoping that I can improve on last year's finish and look forward to enjoying the tournament as much as I did last year," said McElroy, who was second in the South African Amateur earlier this year.

Sharvin (21), the current British University champion, is also looking forward to the challenge.

"I am delighted to be part of the prestigious event and look forward to competing against some of the biggest names in the game," said Sharvin.

It's been a great week for the golfing quartet after they were also named as part of the 11-man Ireland team that will compete in the Home Internationals at Southerndown Golf Club in Wales next week.

"It is widely acknowledged within golf that crossing the pathway from elite amateur to professional golf is very difficult," explained Kevin Stevens, General Secretary, GUI Ulster Branch.

"Only a select few exceptional golfers successfully make the transition.

"The GUI (Ulster Branch) recognises that the NI Open provides a unique and, indeed the only opportunity currently in Northern Ireland, for elite amateurs to experience playing in tour conditions.

"The chance for our top players to benchmark their ability against professional golfers on the European Challenge Tour cannot be underestimated."

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