Top Ulster duo become latest to turn to professional ranks
Two of Ulster golf's leading amateurs - John Ross Galbraith of Whitehead and Knock's Colin Fairweather - have joined the paid ranks.
The duo, both members of Ireland's recent four-in-a-row-winning Home International team, have set their sights on success in the ultra competitive world of professional golf.
"I have always wanted to be a professional and I just felt the time was right," said 23-year-old Galbraith.
"I had a really good year as an amateur, won the Willie Gill Award (Golfing Union of Ireland Order of Merit) and reached a new level with my game. I felt it was time to get amongst it in the pro game."
Winner of the Irish Close Championship in 2014 and the North of Ireland Championship in 2015, Galbraith failed to get through the second stage of European Tour qualifying last month but isn't deterred.
"Winning the Irish Close was a big breakthrough win for me," added Galbraith, who is in Portugal testing his game in some mini-tour events.
"I have plenty of great amateur memories, winning the North and playing for Ireland, but it was the right time for me to turn pro. I'm going to play a couple of events down here before Christmas and then I will take a break before coming back in January to play in a couple more.
"Looking ahead, this season I will be guaranteed four Challenge Tour starts via Team Ireland and then whatever I can get on top of that.
"I am going to be playing a mixture of Challenge and Europro Tour events. I'm ready for it and I'm really looking forward to experiencing life as a professional."
Growing up as the son of PGA professional Gordon, it was probably inevitable that Colin would someday make the switch from amateur golf.
Gordon was the professional at Knock GC for 20 years and is now based at Bradshaws Brae Driving Range in Newtownards, where Colin can often be found collecting the range balls.
"My dad has always been there for me, he knows my swing and knows my game well. We work well together," said Colin.
"I do try to stay away from hitting balls at the range. I can get carried away and hit too many. For me, it's all about quality over quantity. I get more out of my game when I'm playing free and I'm faced with a variety of shots to smaller targets, so I try to get to Knock three times a week to play nine holes with just the one ball."
Colin's amateur career was punctuated with team success but that individual victory proved elusive. He racked up runners-up finishes in the South and East of Ireland Championships and this year he lost in the final of the North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush.
"This year I had a really nice finish in the Brabazon Trophy (tied eighth) and it could have been better. My game that week was very good and I always reflect back not really to the result, but how I played, that was the best I performed individually," he said.
In November, the 26-year-old was on the cusp of booking a place in the final stage of Euro Tour Q-School before a late stumble saw him miss out.
He added: "I was knocking on the door there. One shot could have got me through to Stage Three and who knows what might have happened then. Now the plan is to find some backing to play on the Europro Tour next year.
"Hopefully someone sees some potential there and reaches out to get things moving in the right direction."