Two players who will be flying the PGA flag for Ireland at the eagerly anticipated BMW PGA Championship next week is Neil O’Briain and Damien McGrane.
The road to recovery after picking up a hip injury during practice has been fairly kind to Neil O’Briain who has his sights firmly set on making the cut at this year’s BMW PGA Championship.
The 30-year-old, who now plays on the Sunshine Tour, is one of 12 PGA Professionals hoping to make an impact at the newly refurbished Wentworth course in Surrey.
And although his injury has slightly hampered preparations, O’Briain is determined to make an impression at the European Tour’s flagship event.
“I'm very excited to be playing in the flagship event on the European tour,” said O’Briain, who is a PGA pro at Old Conna Golf Club.
“Never having played it before it's always one you watch and it's cool to be playing the holes seen year after year.
“Unfortunately I had to withdraw from the last three events on the sunshine tour to come home for physio sessions with Orlaith Buckley as I hurt my hip on the range before the Zambia Open.
“But recovery has been going well. I've had to make a few changes to my swing as to not put as much pressure on my hip but it's feeling good.”
After enjoying a successful amateur career which saw him win the Kerry Boys Championship and the Connacht Youth Championship twice, O’Brian made the decision to move to the US in 2005 after receiving a scholarship to Wofford College in South Carolina.
He won plenty of accolades as well as college titles in the states, including being named Southern Conference Freshman of the Year, before eventually turning professional.
O’Brian competed in a number of European, Challenge and EuroPro events before earning his PGA teaching qualification and he now has aspirations to earn a European Tour card over the coming seasons.
His recent accolades include winning the PGA Southern Championship as well as the PGA Ulster Championship, and O’Briain wants to take that winning mentality into next week.
“The goal is to put four good rounds together and see how it all pans out,” O’Briain added. “Take it as it comes.
“If the putter gets hot it could be a very good week and that's what it really comes down to.
“I never had the pleasure of playing the previous layout but having looked at the changes through the European tour media over the last month it looks stunning. I'm looking forward to experiencing it and enjoying the week.”
Another Irishman hoping to continue his impressive record at Wentworth in recent years is former European Tour player Damien McGrane.
The 46-year-old enjoyed his best spell as a player towards the back end of the 2000s when he won his maiden tour title in 2008 by lifting the Volvo China Open and one year later he collect £700,000 after finishing 41st in the Race to Dubai.
Since retiring from the tour in 2015, the County Meath player has gone on to enjoy plenty of success on the Irish PGA Regional tour and last year he was victorious at the Irish PGA Championship at Moyvalley.
McGrane, who turned professional back in 1992, has a good record at Wentworth having made the cut five times over the past seven years, and in 2010 he finished T17th.
“It’s a huge competition and it always attracts the top players,” said McGrane. “They always try to turn up to the flagship events so it will be nice to see what us pros can do on the big stage.
“My preparations have been poor to be honest. I’ve not been in the best of form. I’m not up to much this week so it will be a case of me going there next Monday and seeing if I can find some form.
“The course has changed this year so it will be a challenge, but it’s going to be a challenge for all of us out there."
*O'Briain and McGrane are two of 12 PGA professionals who will be hoping to make an impact at the BMW PGA Championships. They will be joined at Wentworth by Ian Poulter, Robert Rock, Matthew Cort, Greig Hutcheon, Paul Streeter, Graham Fox, Robert Coles, Phillip Archer, Chris Gane and Paul Hendriksen.
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