Ruadhrí McGee happy to fly Donegal flag in Ballyliffin

Derry-born golfer has strong connections to Downings

Tom Comack


Tom Comack

Ruadhrí McGee happy to fly Donegal flag in Ballyliffin

Ruaidhri McGee

Ruaidhrí McGee was born and brought up as a Derry man and will play in this weekend’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf tournament in Ballyliffin.

But the 27 year-old from the Waterside in Derry City will also most definitely fly the Donegal flag in Ballyliffin.

And what’s more he told the Democrat earlier this week he would be very proud to do so and that he is very happy to be associated with Donegal.

“My dad, Michael is from Downings and I spent my summers growing up in Downings,” said Ruaidhrí.

“Two and half months every summer were spent in Downings and it was where I played my first golf. I spent countless hours during those summers playing on Rosapenna and it was probably where I first fell for the game.

“My dad was a keen golfer and my granda, Michael, used to play it too.

“Ruaidhrí is the grandson of the late Michael McGee, the legendary GAA correspondent and commentator with Highland Radio for over 29 years.

Ruaidhrí is an invitee into this weekend’s tournament by Team Ireland Golf as one the two highest ranking Irish players on the European Challenge Tour.

Rory Sharvin from Ardglass in Co Down is the other.

Ruaidhrí had played on the European Challenge tour since turning PRO in 2010.

He was only 17 at the time and signed up to professional ranks on the back of a promising junior career. He is currently ranked 57th on the Challenge tour and the goal and the ambition is to make the top 15.

“It’s a very competitive tour and the top 15 qualify for all European Tour events while the top 30 will get you for 12 to 13 European Tour events.

“The way it is at the moment I’m just relying on a handful of invites every year and late call ups to European tournaments.

“Late call ups don’t always suit your schedule. You may have a Challenge Tour tournament that same weekend and you have to weigh up your options.

“You may risk the chance of winning valuable Challenge Tour points and valuable prize money which, after all, is your bread and butter.

“You may also find with a late call up say the week of the tournament and you may be at the venue for your Challenge tournament and may have your accomodation paid for and be in the middle of practice.

“I would normally arrive for a tournament on a Monday evening or early on a Tuesday morning, practice Tuesday and Wednesday and then play Thursday, Friday and hopefully make the cut and play Saturday and Sunday.”

This weekend’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will be his third time to play in the Irish Open. He played in Fota Island in Cork in 2014 and the K Club in Kildare in 2016.

“Unfortunately, they did not go very well for me. I missed the cut on both occasions so obviously that is something I will hope to do this weekend.

“Making the cut and getting to play on Saturday and Sunday would be brilliant and it would be really nice to finish in the top ten. That would gain me automatic entry in the Scottish Open the following weekend.

“I’m really looking forward to this weekend because I see it as my local tournament and it is a great honour for me.

“I know Ballyliffin very well and have played it numerous times down the years and I have played a lot of golf on it and North West and Rosapenna, so I’m very familiar with the course.”

Ruaidhrí practiced in Ballyliffin on Monday and Tuesday and was due to get in a few holes yesterday (Wednesday) before linking up with his caddy for the tournament, Ollie Parkhouse.

“He’s a young English lad. He is the regular caddy for Michael Hoey, but Michael is not out this weekend so Ollie is teaming up with me.

“We are meeting up tomorrow night (Wednesday) and we will go over a few things and plan for the first few days. Some people like their caddy to work on the technical side of the game and yardage and all that.

“Personally, I just prefer to chat generally with the caddy as we go through the round and of course I will listen to him on distance and yardage, etc, but nothing too serious.”

Ruaidhrí is showing good form in the run up to this week’s tournament.

He made his first cut on the European Tour since 2015 at last month’s Shot Clock Masters in Austria.

His only other European Tour outing in 2018 was also last month at the Rocco Forte Sicilian Open.

He tees off this morning (Thursday) alongside Marc Warren from Scotland and Gavin Green from Malaysia at 9.30pm.