Rookie Matthew putts himself on US golf map

A young golfer from Lisburn has won one of the American Collegiate’s biggest golf tournaments.

The individual honour at the 25th PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship was lifted by Daytona’s Bethune-Cookman University rookie student Matthew McKnight.

The 19-year old student, who is a Lisburn Golf Club member, won one-under par total of 215 after shooting rounds of 72-72-71.

A final round 71 was fired by McKnight for a 1-under which got him a playoff against Dominique Worthern of Texas Southern. The local lad secured a win by posting a par on the first extra hole.

“Matt’s been solid in his last four tournaments, so this isn’t a surprise,” said his College Head Coach Loritz Clark, noting that McKnight has been averaging a 74 in his recent rounds. “He’s improved his ball striking and when he gets his putting going, you know he is going to have a good round.”

It was a double delight at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie for McKnight. “It was a fantastic tournament for the College because we also won the team event,” he said. “I managed to finish the last six holes in five under which helped me lift the individual prize. It really puts me on the map and helps me get invites to more major events.”

McKnight does not miss home too much as he has settled well in Daytona.

“When I left Florida last week it was in the high 80’s,” added Matthew. “I really enjoy it over there and I have not missed home at all. I am studying business admin at Bethune-Cookman University. Playing on the golf team helped me settle because we get on really well, we are just like a big family.

“We have a lot of travelling to do, not just in Florida but from State to State and that in itself is a great experience as you discover the many different cultures. We train from 3 to 6pm most days which has helped me improve my game.”

Matthew says he took up golf because of his dad Gilbert. “I used to walk round the course at Rockmount with him when I was just six years old and I decided then I wanted to play golf.

“My aim is to finish off my term at College which will take three more years and then go to qualifying school and try for my tour card.”

McKnight was inspired by Rory Mcllory’s success. “I remember hearing about Rory when he was a young amateur at 14 and breaking all sorts of records. He is a great talent and model professional. I hope one day to turn pro, but for now I am back home for the summer and looking forward to the Irish Senior events.”