Kelly spearheads Irish challenge in Turkey


13PGAPlay Offs Kelly

John Kelly will lead Irish hopes in the Titleist PGA Play-Offs in Turkey later this month.

The St Margaret’s PGA Professional topped the Irish Order of Merit and will tee up against leading pros from across the UK in the £15,000 tournament being contested at Antalya Golf Club’s PGA Sultan course from November 23-25.

Kelly and fellow Irish pros Damian Mooney and Brian McElhinney will be targeting a top 10 finish to earn entry into next year’s BMW PGA Championship while the winner will also secure a number of European and Challenge Tour starts in addition to being crowned PGA No.1.

Kelly won the Irish Order of Merit despite missing out on potentially vital points when he pulled out of the Irish PGA Championship because of the impending birth of his son.

“Things fell into place nicely for me,” he recalls. “My son was born on the day of the first round and after the championship finished I got a call to say I was still top of the Order of Merit, just 80-odd points ahead of Damian Mooney.

“That’s a small margin when you are talking about over 26,000 points for the season.

“Damian shared second place in the championship with Cian McNamara but if he had been second on his own he would have gone past me at the top of the table.

“Now, I’m looking forward to the PGA Play-Offs and hoping to snatch a place in the BMW Championship. I played Wentworth before and enjoyed the experience. To get among the top qualifiers at Antalya would be great.

“I had no qualms about pulling out of the Irish Championship, although I’d have loved to win that, but the birth of my second son (Seb) was much more important to me than playing golf.”

Kelly didn’t win any big tournaments during 2013 but played steady golf and was up the leaderboard in most of his appearances.

“At the start of the season I sat down and targeted the tournaments that I wanted to do well in. I was very keen to top the Order of Merit and my planning worked, even the gamble I took in pulling out of the championship,” he reflected.

Mooney was just a putt away from forcing a play-off with winner Michael McGeady in the Irish Championship – a three stab on the 14th green, in the final round, costing the Ballyliffin-attaché a share of the lead and the possibility of winning the title in a shootout, as he finished one stroke behind winner McGeady.

Mooney remains one of the most consistent players on the Irish circuit being regularly high up the leaderboard in any tournament he plays. His big hitting is a feature of his play and he has been a multi-winner of the PGA Ulster Region Championship.

The Belfast man also cleared the first hurdle at this year’s European Tour Qualifying School and he made the cut in the 2013 Irish Open, at Carton House, when the likes of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley all missed the weekend action.

After testing his luck on the European trail, mostly on the PGA Europro Tour, McElhinney decided to return home, finish off his education and begin training as a club professional. He is based at the Foyle Golf Centre and competes extensively in Ireland now.

Titleist brand director, Matthew Johnson, commented: “Titleist strives to support golf in all aspects of the game and our partnership with The PGA and the PGA Play-Offs offers a fantastic platform to strengthen our ties with all PGA Professionals.

"We take great pride in validating the #1 ball in golf, used by the best players in the world from touring professionals through to PGA Professionals and elite amateurs.

“The PGA Play-Offs is a unique event in bringing the leading PGA pros together to compete for an opportunity to tee up at some of the European Tour’s biggest events including the flagship BMW PGA Championship and we look forward to seeing an exciting conclusion to the season."

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