Niall Kearney looking to join elite club with third successive Irish PGA

He looks to follow Christy O’Connor Snr, Harry Bradshaw and Pádraig Harrington

Niall Kearney is facing into a busy schedule, which is just the way he'd prefer it. The 28-year-old Dubliner defends his Irish PGA Championship this week at Moyvalley Hotel and Golf Resort in Co Kildare before heading to European Tour stage one qualifying in his on-going quest to earn a tour card.

In attempting to join Christy O'Connor Snr, Harry Bradshaw and Pádraig Harrington in an elite club of players who managed to win three successive Irish PGAs, Kearney – who lost his Asian Tour card last season and who has undergone some swing changes this year – aims to use the championship in the midlands as the springboard to a strong finish to the season.

A winner by a record-breaking 14 strokes at Dundalk last year, Kearney recalled: “I was on a decent run of form. I went out there and I played well and putted well. The overriding memory is just being so consistent for four days. It was confidence more than anything else.”

This season has concentrated his efforts on the developmental EuroPro Tour along with some outings on the Challenge Tour and has been working with St Margaret's professional John Kelly on swing changes to "take things to the next level."

He added: “Change takes time. It’s not big change by any means but when you have been playing one way for so long, a minute change can feel very alien. At the moment I’m probably thinking about my golf swing too much rather than shooting a score but I need to try and get past that now.”

Kearney opens the defence of his title alongside former tour player David Higgins, who currently heads the Irish PGA region order of merit, and in-form Old Conna professional Neil Ó Briain. "This is a strong part of the year with the Irish PGA followed by the European Tour Q-School and the EuroPro Tour finals, so it's not a bad time of the year to be peaking," said Kearney.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times