Golfer Niall Turner is a busy man, but he still manages to get in the important things done. Niall and his fiancée Rachel are just finished in Keane’s after purchasing an engagement ring. After that it’s more wedding plans but it all needs to be done now as in two weeks’ time the Ballincollig native will start his 2016 Asian Tour campaign. And this year Turner is full of confidence after a great finish to his 2105 season. Niall Turner is Cork’s only full time touring professional and he’s embarking on his sixth season in Asia. The talented amateur turned pro in 2008 after representing Muskerry, Munster and Ireland at all levels. After spending three years on mini-tours in North America, he looked East to see what opportunities might be there. “I remember seeing some names on the Asian Tour website” said Turner, “I remember Rickard Karlberg from amateur golf and saw his earnings, I was surprised with the prize money he had won, Rhys Davies was playing there, Simon Dyson started off there, a lot of guys who had lost cards had gone over there. I had a look at the schedule and saw the [co-sanctioned] European Tour events, and that it was a great way of getting into Europe while playing on a major tour. To be honest I was a bit annoyed that I hadn’t thought of it before.”
Niall spent two years on the Asian Tour before having to take a year out for surgery on a long-standing hip problem. From a low point in 2013, Turner spent 2014 on the Asian Development Tour (ADT). It was a hard slog at the time, playing for small purses on lower level courses, but he managed a win and a top five order of merit finish earned him a card for the main tour. Another injury meant that Turner didn’t play much golf in the first half of 2015, but he made up for it in the second half, earning over $70,000 from the ten events he played in.
Last year Turner qualified for tour events thanks to earning an ADT card from 2014. In 2016 he’ll play under an order of merit tour card, and the order of merit tour card has a much higher ranking as he explained: “The card this year is far better, the difference between having a ADT card and an order of merit card means that I’m guaranteed every Asian Tour event and almost all of the co-sanctioned events. I’ll play in at least five European Tour events and possibly seven. The CIMB [PGA Tour] and the HSBC [WGC] events are limited to the top ten so that a good goal to have to qualify to play in those events. I’m hoping to go to Dubai for a weeks practice along with my coach Johnny Foster, I’m hoping to go there before the first tour event in Singapore at the end of January. Darren Clarke and Jordan Speith are playing so it should be a good tournament to start. It’s on the course where the Barclays Singapore Open used to be played. I think it’s one of the best courses in Asia and as a venue it’s top class so that will be a great way to kick off the year. That’s co-sanctioned with Japan so I wouldn’t get there based on last year’s tour card.”
Despite the fact that Niall is entering his sixth year in Asia, he doesn’t have a base over there, instead choosing to travel back to Ireland anytime there a break in his schedule. “I travel over and back so I’m clocking up the air-miles” said the 32 year old Muskerry member. “You’ll get a long haul flight from €600 and local flights in Asia are around €100. I really enjoy getting home, if I’ve a week off I’d probably go to Thailand to practice but if it’s longer than that I’ll come home. I’m back in Dublin almost every month, and I like getting back to Cork whenever I can to see the folks.”
Golf will have to take a back seat mid-season as Niall is due to marry his fiancée Rachel Halligan in June. The break will come at a good time according to Niall: “It works out pretty well as there’s not much on at that time of year. I’ll be full on from the end of January to the end of May so I’ll be due a good break at that stage. I’m hoping to get an invite to play in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, I’ve never played in an Irish Open so I’m hoping that this will be the year. The DDF Irish Open is on at the end of May and the wedding is planned for the week after that.”