'Unbelievable experience' as Gary McNeill gets Open Championship call

Royal Portrush Head Professiona Gary McNeill
Royal Portrush Head Professiona Gary McNeill
Share this article

Imagine getting the phone call informing you that you would be taking part in Saturday's Championship round of The Open.

Well that's what happened Royal Portrush professional Gary McNeill on Friday evening.

Gary, who has been the Head Professional at the Club since 1999, explained how his once in a lifetime opportunity came about.

"The players played in three-balls the first two days, but after the cut they play in two-balls and there happens to be an odd number," he told the BBC.

"I'm stepping in to make up the numbers. I'm playing with Paul Waring and teeing off at 9.35am.

"It was pretty nerve-wracking when I got the call, but I'm thoroughly looking forward to it.

"It's going to be an unbelievable experience to play on a Saturday here at Royal Portrush in the Open Championship.

"I haven't really got out on to the course this week even to see the play as there has been so much to do.

"I've been playing a little bit more over the last couple of years, and I got down to the range on Tuesday night and also on Friday night.

"I'll get down in the morning again before my round."

Gary, who has been a multiple winner on the Irish PGA circuit, is delighted to see Irishman Shane Lowry topping the leader board.

"It's fantastic for Shane, again he's picking up so much support out there," said McNeill.

"He has put in some good preparation here a couple of weeks ago and had a good look at the golf course.

"Shane's got himself into great shape and it's no surprise to see him up there, he's such a great driver of the ball.

"He's hitting a lot of fairways out there which is something you need to do at Royal Portrush."