Shay’s Short Game: Tom McKibbin wins Orangebowl in Miami

Don Byers is set to play College Golf at Bellevue University at 61 years of age

Holywood’s Tom McKibbin who won the Doral Publix Junior Classic Orangebowl championship.

Holywood’s Tom McKibbin who won the Doral Publix Junior Classic Orangebowl championship.

 

McKibbin wins Orangebowl in Miami

Tom McKibbin from Holywood Golf Club won the 2017 Doral Publix Jr Classic Orangebowl Championship. The 54 hole strokeplay event in Miami, Florida played host to some 600 junior golfers with entrants in the field coming from far and wide to compete.

McKibbin took on some of the best junior golfers on offer from, Portugal, China, USA, Colombia, Germany, France and Brazil to name a few but Ireland’s McKibbin proved too strong for the field and won with scores of 67, 69 and 73 posting a 209 total to take the title by two shots.

Kiko Francisco Coelho from Portugal was second on 211 after rounds of 68, 74 and 69 with Choina’s Yuze Zhang third on 214 after carding 73, 71 and 70.

Kearney advances in Asian Qualifier

Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney was one of 112 players who advanced to the final stage of the 2018 Asian Tour Qualifying School, but there was no luck for Limerick’s Tim Rice, Black Bush’s Stephen McCarthy or Headfort’s Rory McNamara at the first stage in Thailand.

Kearney made three birdies and three bogeys in a closing 71 at Rayong Green Valley Country Club south of Bangkok and tied for 14th place at a venue where 43 qualified on three-over 287 or better.

Reigning Irish Professional champion Rice closed with a 75 at the same venue to finish 70th, eight shots outside the mark.

McCarthy signed off with a 76 and was 76th at St Andrews 2000, 13 shots outside the qualifying places while McNamara’s one under 70 at Windsor Park and Golf Club left him 34th, eight shots shy of his ticket to the final stage.

The 112 qualifiers join 131 exempt players at the final stage which will be played over 90 holes (five rounds) at the Rayong Green Valley Country Club and the St Andrews 2000 in Rayong starting on Wednesday.

Mullarney down the field in Arizona

Maynooth University’s Ronan Mullarney finished 68th as University of Arkansas sophomore Mason Overstreet won the 2017 Patriot All-America Invitational in Arizona. Mullarney added a 73 to previous rounds of 75 and 74 to finish on 12-over par at The Wigwam in Litchfield Park where Overstreet closed with a six-under par 64 to finish at 11-under par 199.

The winner finished six shots ahead of Austin Eckroat of Oklahoma State, Patrick Fishburn of BYU, SM Lee from Dalton State College, George Cunningham from the University of Arizona and overnight leader Garrett May of Baylor University.

Mullarney’s Maynooth University teammate Jordan Hood was forced to withdraw with suspected torn ligaments in his left hand after playing just four holes of the opening round.

Birthday boost for Byrne

Baltinglass’ Joseph Byrne celebrated his 15th birthday in style when he mastered high winds to card a one-under 70 and claim the top prize in the first TaylorMade Winter Series event of the year at Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links.

Winner of the Leinster Under 13 Boys in 2016 and the Leinster Under 14 crown with a 62 at Corballis last June, he showed his liking for links golf when he birdied the 18th to top the 62-strong field.

Playing off scratch, Byrne won the nett by two shots from three-handicapper Sean Dowling from The Island (72) and by three from Castle’s Eoghan McKeever (73) who is playing off two.

Laytown and Bettystown’s plus two international Thomas Mulligan, a freshman at the University of Oregon, shot a level par 71 to win the gross by a shot from Halpenny Golf professional Steven Quinlan with the GUI National Academy’s Niall McGlynn third with a 76.

61-year-old set to play College Golf

It’s not unusual when someone from the older generation decides to go back to college but in Don Byers’ case it’s very unusual. The 61-year-old is not only enrolled for second semester at Bellevue University, he was recruited to play on the Bruins golf team.

“Nobody believes me, they all laugh,” said Byers when asked about his friends reaction. “Then when they find out it’s for real they say go on your bucket list, live your dream.”

Byers played high school baseball at Omaha Benson in the mid 70’s and earned a small college scholarship.

“In college as a pitcher I blew out my arm,” explained Byers “That was the end of the scholarship so off I went into the workforce.”

That was about 40 years ago and over that time Byers built a successful insurance business.

“So I’ve got a family, a business, and grandkids. It’s a little different than your normal college student.”

Bellevue head coach Rob Brown who recruited Byers after a chance round of golf at summer’s end said;

“To have a 61 year old is one thing but to have a 61 year old that can really play is fun.”.

The first tournament for the team is scheduled for Las Vegas in March and there’s a good chance Byers will make his debut as a college golfer there. He expects his family, including grandkids to be there cheering him on.

Yujeong Son braves the cold

It didn’t snow in Florida but as America’s East Coast braced for a cyclone, the weather was so extreme at the Harder Hall Invitational women’s tournament that officials cancelled the first round. It’s believed to be the first time in the 63-year history of the event that a round has been scrapped.

By Saturday’s final round, the sun was out and temperatures had climbed into the mid-teens as Kentucky’s Leonie Bettel carried a one-stroke lead over 16-year-old Yujeong Son. But Son, one of the hottest players on the US amateur circuit, took advantage of a struggling Bettel and mounted a seven-stroke lead at the turn. Griffin, who trailed by eight strokes at the start of the day, got to within five strokes with four holes to play.

Yet Son, a terrific scrambler, kept her distance and cruised to a six-shot victory. Her closing 3-over 75 gave her an even-par 216 total. Griffin (74) and Bettel (82) finished tied for second at 222.

It marked the third straight victory in three weeks for Son, who won both the Dixie Amateur (for a second consecutive year) and the Allstate Sugar Bowl Tommy Moore Invitational (for a third consecutive year) in late December. Next week she’ll go for a fourth at the AJGA ANNIKA Invitational in St Augustine, Fla.

England’s Annabell Fuller finished a creditable seventh with an aggregate of 229, made up of scores of 77, 74 and 78.

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