Cairndhu Golf Club’s John McKinstry has been named captain of the Ulster Boys’ team and he believes they have a good chance of winning this year’s inter-provincial competition in Cork.
McKinstry, a former Leinster Boys’ Open champion in the 1980s, took up his new role recently and has been handed a four-year contract, sanctioned by the Golfing Union of Ireland (Ulster Branch).
“It is obviously a great honour for myself, Cairndhu and the town of Larne to be selected for such an important position within the Golfing Union of Ireland. The job will entail selecting a panel of approximately 15 of the best golfers in Ulster, and then selecting a team of seven to represent Ulster in the Interprovincial Championships in Cork this year.
“Rory McIlroy has come through this path representing Ulster, and went on to become the number one golfer in the world. During my captaincy, I hope I can bring some of the best golfers in Ulster to, possibly, follow Rory into the professional game.”
Cairndhu Golf Club currently has three of their young golfers - Stephen Watts, Neil McKinstry and Ryan Long - on the Ulster panel.
Three years ago, McKinstry was appointed by the GUI Ulster Branch to look after the Under-15s and Under-18s squads and his experience could prove invaluable to the future of junior golf here.
“With me being a fairly reasonable golfer, and my three boys playing at a high level, the GUI felt my appointment would strengthen the management team. Having been appointed the new Ulster captain for the next four years, I have also been appointed a representative for Ulster on the committee in the GUI in Dublin for the Irish panels, which will enable me to have some input on the way forward for junior golf in Ireland,” he said.
McKinstry said he has always enjoyed watching the junior game and his sons’ involvement has fuelled his enthusiasm.
“I have helped look after players such as Chris Selfridge who won both the Irish Close and East of Ireland championships last year, and who is now playing his golf in America. Other players such as Dermot McIlroy and Cormac Sharvin are both looking to move into the professional ranks, and I watched both of them progress in the game from the age of 13.
“My own son, Ryan, who was involved with these three players, also won two major championships in the same year. He has opted to study at Queen’s and I am fully supportive of him in doing this, as the professional game can be very difficult. Ryan does want to continue to compete at a high amateur level in golf.”
There was disappointment when last year’s strong crop of Ulster players were edged out by Leinster at the inter-provincials at Royal County Down, but McKinstry believes he has a talented pool to draw on in 2013.
“I have to say that it was very disappointing, as we were firm favourites to win the series, but we simply didn’t play well enough that week. However, I do think that on paper, we have a very strong panel this year.
“I will have five players who competed in last year’s inter-pros at my disposal, so I hope their experience will hold them in good stead for this year’s competition at Lee Valley in Cork. I think we have a very good chance of winning it, but it will depend on how all seven play on that particular week.”
Asked how he would find the possibility of captaining one of his sons, McKinstry added: “Having helped select the teams over the past three years, last year I left both my sons, Neil and Marc, out of the under-18 and under-15 Ulster teams. This was despite both of them being very close to selection.
“As captain, I have to do what is best for Ulster and if it means leaving any of my sons out, then ultimately this will be the case. However, it is entirely up to both of them to work hard at their games and do well in the next few coaching sessions, along with good performances in the up and coming championships.
“Marc has decided to concentrate on golf having played football for Larne Youth and represented County Antrim for a number of years. His game has certainly improved, now that he is only playing one sport.”