The 888poker.com PGA EuroPro Tour heads to Galgorm Castle, Northern Ireland for the third time on Wednesday for the Ulster Bank Open.
The venue, in Ballymena near Belfast, is now a firm favourite with players on the tour and excitement is building ahead of the fourth event on the 2012 calendar.
After winning at Bovey Castle last week Tyrrell Hatton is now second in the Order of Merit behind Martin LeMesurier. However, neither are entered at Galgorm so we could see a change at the top by Friday evening.
Any of the four players behind the top two could leap to the top of the Order of Merit with a win at Galgorm, giving added significance the fourth event of the Tour season.
Among the local interest at Galgorm Castle is Paul Cutler, who joined the 888poker.com PGA EuroPro Tour this year following an outstanding amateur career which ended on a high with an unbeaten contribution to Great Britain and Irelandâ€™s Walker Cup victory at Royal Aberdeen in September.
The Portstewart man made a strong start to the season, winning his First Stage Qualifying School event before tying for third at the Q School Final. He missed the cut at Lingfield Park in his first event of the main EuroPro season and finished tied 18th at Bovey Castle last week.
With back-to-back events it is straight over to familiar territory for Cutler, who says he is looking forward to playing on local turf at Galgorm Castle and has set his sights on claiming a maiden professional victory.
â€œI am really looking forward to playing Galgorm Castle,â€ he said. â€œIt is a great course and I know there have been a lot of developments over the past 12 months, so I canâ€™t wait to get out there.
â€œAlthough this is my first time playing at Galgorm I hear nothing but great things from everyone. I am told the crowds give it a real tournament feel and it is a bit like playing a European Tour event, which is obviously where I am aiming to get.
â€œGetting onto the EuroPro Tour and getting a taster for what it is like at the next level is a great experience; you cannot put a value on it. The EuroPro Tour is about learning the trade and learning as you go; it is a wonderful development tour.
â€œObviously my ultimate goal is to get onto the European Tour. Getting to play at an event like this will make me even hungrier for it and a win at Galgorm would put that extra fire in my belly.”
Danny Nickless, Operations Manager of the PGA EuroPro Tour added: â€œThere is such a buzz at the venue and players often comment on their excitement of the challenge at Galgorm Castle.â€
The course is boarded by the River Briad and Maine and has seen new tee boxes and bunkers installed in the last 12 months, stiffening the challenge and adding to the excitement for even the most experienced Tour players.
West Ham United midfielder Gary Oâ€™Neil made his professional golf debut at Bovey Castle last week and will feature again at Galgorm.
Speaking after missing the cut in Dartmoor, the newly-promoted Premier League player admitted he felt the nerves when teeing off on Wednesday and hopes to be more relaxed in Ballymena this week.
â€œBovey Castle was my first ever professional golf event,â€ he said. â€œIt was nice of the EuroPro Tour to invite me to come see what it is all about and it was a good experience.
â€œI play off scratch at the London Club in Kent but itâ€™s a bit different playing there on a Sunday morning with friends than it is playing on the EuroPro with the professional lads who are on tour doing it week-in, week-out. I found it difficult at Bovey but I tried to enjoy it anyway.
â€œIt was tough going, it was quite nerve-racking as well. Because of the play-offs I didnâ€™t get much practice in before the event. I did okay on the first day but struggled on the second day. Hopefully at Galgorm Iâ€™ll feel a little more comfortable. I hit some bad shots at Bovey that I canâ€™t remember ever hitting before, so hopefully Iâ€™ll be a bit more used to it and a bit more relaxed at Galgorm.
â€œI love my golf and I know some of the EuroPro Tour players. I was invited to come and play a couple of weeks and see what it is all about. Itâ€™s something that, if I can get good enough at, Iâ€™d be interested in doing once I get to 35 and stop playing football. Itâ€™s a chance to see what it was all about and how my swing would stand up under pressure. Unfortunately it wasnâ€™t great at Bovey!
â€œI made seven on the first on day one and nine on the same hole on the second day, so hopefully Iâ€™ll be able to deal with my first-tee nerves a bit better next week.â€
The Ulster Bank Open gets underway on Wednesday and entry to the event is free for all spectators. Free parking is available on site and spectators will be issued with a complimentary programme and time sheet on arrival. Junior Golf Ireland will be on site throughout the event, offering free golf lessons to children.