Conor Thornton is heading to South Africa after Christmas to try and secure his playing card on the Sunshine Tour and fulfill his ambition to play professional golf.
The 26 year-old Dundalk man wants to follow in the footsteps of some of the most illustrious names in the sport like South Africa’s Ernie Els and Luis Oosthuizen along with America’s John Daly, who all played on the Sunshine circuit early in their careers.
They all went on to become major championship winners with Els the current Open champion which he won at Royal Lytham and Saint Anne’s in July, and holds four major titles.
Conor, who is a member of the local club, would gladly settle for the chance to play full-time.
A latecomer to golf at 15, he qualified as a club professional in 2007, having trained under Leslie Walker at his home town club
He spent this year as a Tournament Controller with the Irish PGA running and organising events for home based professionals.
“This opened my eyes, and made me realise if I put in the hard work I can realise my goals”, he said.
However, he is realistic that seeking a European Tour card which ultimately he would like to earn, is too big of a step and he is not keen to “jump in at the deep end when I haven’t enough playing experience”.
“I can learn a lot from the Sunshine Tour when you look at guys like John Daly, Ernie Els and Luis Oosthuizen who have played on it and what they have achieved”, he pointed out.
Dundalk resident professional Leslie Walker and his counterpart Brian Kerley at the nearby Green Life Driving Range, who was a former assistant at Dundalk, are among a team trying to help Conor to fulfill his playing ambitions.
Conor is putting in long hours of practice and physical work in the gymnasium to strive to make the breakthrough onto the playing circuit in South Africa. This entails a regime of spending eight to nine hours a day on honing his skills and improving his fitness to bring his game to the required level.
There is also the little matter of the cost of pursuing his dream and this Saturday, December 15 he is running a race night in Dundalk Golf Club. He would welcome any support to raise the 5,000 Euro that it will take to get to South Africa to play. Peter Halpin Sports is assisting him with the task to secure funding.
The Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School over 72 holes runs from January 15 to 19 with two rounds over the Bloemfontein and Schoeman Park courses with the top 60 then playing a further round from which the top 30 and ties will be eligible for membership for next year’s tour.