Tom McKibbin will be playing at next year’s Horizon Irish Open, but the Galgorm teen has his eyes set on shorter-term targets after securing his best pro finish at the Irish Challenge.
The 19-year-old carded eight birdies — including six straight on his front nine — and two bogeys in a final round six-under 66 to finish the week 13-under and fire up the leaderboard at The K Club to finish second behind runaway winner Todd Clements.
The Englishman closed out his five-shot overnight lead with a four-under 68, including an eagle on the par-four 14th, to secure his first Challenge Tour win by six shots at 19-under-par.
But it was still a fine week for McKibbin, who admitted he didn’t have his best game but still claimed the Christy O’Connor Jr Memorial Trophy for being the best Irishman in the field and, with it, an invite to next year’s Irish Open, also at The K Club.
“It’s been a pretty good week. I felt a wee bit all over the place off the tee, but I putted well and I hit it close enough and took advantage of the the good stuff I had,” said McKibbin, who moves into the top-20 on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca.
With the top-20 earning playing rights on the DP World Tour next season, that is McKibbin’s primary aim for the remainder of the season, and he has plenty of momentum behind him after four consecutive top-15 finishes.
“It’s great to have that to build on and play my way in hopefully towards the end of the year. It should be a good rest of the season,” he added.
Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy and Malone amateur Matthew McClean both finished in a share of 40th at level-par at The K Club.
Elsewhere, Darren Clarke finished third at the JCB Championship on the Legends Tour, the Senior Open champion ending the week eight-under-par, three shots off winner Alex Cejka.
And at the Women’s Scottish Open, Stephanie Meadow ended the week tied for 38th after a final round 70 took her to five-under-par, with Japan’s Ayaka Furue shooting a course record 10-under 62 to claim a three-shot win at 21-under-par.