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Maybin says tournament at Portrush will inspire the next generation



High hopes: former European Tour player and Ballyclare native Gareth Maybin

High hopes: former European Tour player and Ballyclare native Gareth Maybin

High hopes: former European Tour player and Ballyclare native Gareth Maybin

Former European Tour player Gareth Maybin believes a new generation of young golfers in Northern Ireland will be inspired by The Open Championship taking place in Portrush.

Ballyclare native Maybin retired from the professional arena two years ago and is now a respected coach at the Galgorm club in Ballymena helping juniors and adults with their game.

Maybin played in two Open Championships (St Andrews 2010 and Muirfield 2013) and is well aware of the magnitude of the tournament which is being staged in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951.

He is excited to take his six-year-old son Reece to see today's top stars practice at Royal Portrush this week ahead of Thursday's opening round and says there is a wonderful sense of anticipation about the final major of the year amongst the youngsters he coaches.

"It will be an amazing event for the whole country and it will be inspiring for young golfers across Northern Ireland," says Maybin.

"I coach up and coming juniors and they are buzzing about going to watch The Open.

"If they get to see a Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth or Justin Thomas up close that will be a great experience for them and it shows them that if talent is combined with hard work dreams can come through."

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The dream scenario this week would be victory for a homegrown hero - McIlroy, Graeme McDowell or Darren Clarke.

Maybin has a fascinating take on the McIlroy factor.

"I think Graeme and Darren will obviously know the course which helps and you can't rule Rory out of any tournament. He would love to win this one in particular. If he brings his A game I believe he will win," says 38-year-old Maybin, who was runner-up three times on the European Tour.

"He is an incredible talent and I think people from Northern Ireland can be pretty hard on him. He has been winning since he was very young, has four majors to his name already in a sport where it is so hard to win them and sometimes I feel people here expect too much from him.

"For all the Northern Ireland boys it will mean the world to them just to be teeing off in The Open in their own country so if one goes on to win, it will be the most special success in their careers."

Another to watch out for is world number one and four time major winner Brooks Koepka, who has Portrush man Ricky Elliott as his caddie.

"I know Ricky well and he is doing a great job for Brooks," says Maybin, who played in the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach where McDowell triumphed.

"I can see why the partnership has gelled. Ricky is probably one of the most easy going guys you could ever meet and I was fortunate to play a bit with Brooks on the Challenge Tour and he is a similar type of character. Off the course he is laid back though when he is playing he is pretty cut-throat.

"His game is sensational and if you listen to Brooks talk his mindset is fantastic. He believes the majors are easier to win than normal tour events. Some of the majors don't necessarily have the deepest strongest fields because you have qualifiers playing them."

Any regrets for Maybin that he retired a couple of years ago and won't have the chance to play in a home Open?

"No, not really. I look back at my career and think I was lucky to accomplish what I did. When you are playing in that bubble and trying to keep your card or win a tournament you lose sight of how well you did to get on the tour in the first place. I am proud of what I achieved," he says.

Dad to Reece and Lori, the passionate Linfield supporter enjoyed some of his finest moments as an amateur at Portrush, including when he won the North of Ireland Championship in 2002.

He recalls: "I remember being able to shape the ball both ways and putt really well. All my friends and family were there and it was a fantastic experience for me.

"Imagine what it's going to be like for the local guys this week with thousands cheering them on at every hole.

"I played in two Open Championships and know how massive the tournament is. The vast majority of the people going to Portrush won't have seen anything like it before. It's going to be incredible for Northern Ireland."

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