Gareth Shaw hopes NI Open can boost his hopes of full Tour card

Gareth Shaw hopes a good outing at this week's Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle can help trigger a burst of late-season form good enough to secure his full European Tour card for 2014.

Galgorm touring pro Shaw is currently 128th in the Race to Dubai standings.

That puts him just under £53,000 adrift of the cut-off spot of 110th.

Shaw is hopeful of getting spots in the Italian and Dutch Opens as well as the Dunhill Links event although he knows that there are "no guarantees".

"I think (the European Masters) Crans-Sur-Sierre next week is a definite no-no as it's a massive event on the European Tour," Shaw told BBC Sport Northern Ireland.

Michael Hoey is event ambassador for this week's Northern Ireland Open Challenge at Galgorm Castle

"But after that, Italy, Holland and the Dunhill Links are my three opportunities from what I've been told but you never know how things are going to pan out."

Another possible route to a full card for 2014 is through a top-15 place in the end-of-season European Challenge Tour rankings.

While Shaw is currently only 61st in the Challenge Tour order of merit, victory this week at the Ballymena venue would probably move the Lurgan man into the top 25 in the rankings with six possible outings remaining this season.

After sharing fifth place in his first ever full tour event at the Irish Open in June and then finishing in the top 15 in France a week later, Shaw should have a big following on home soil this week and he is looking forward to that prospect.

"Over the last few years I've played well under pressure with fans and spectators watching me and hopefully it will be more of the same this week."

As Galgorm's touring professional, Shaw has has plenty of opportunities to play the course this year and he believes it will prove a good test for Europe's second-tier players.

"It's a great set-up and it should be a good week. If the wind blows with the rough up, scoring might not be as low as people expect."

NORTHERN IRELAND OPEN FACTFILE

  • Venue: Galgorm Castle, Ballymena - opened 1997
  • European Challenge Tour event
  • Tournament purse: £146,000
  • First prize: £23,350
  • Tournament Ambassador: Michael Hoey
  • Field also includes Oliver Wilson, Nick Dougherty, Kenneth Ferrie and Ross McGowan

Tournament ambassador Michael Hoey is the big name in action but the field also includes 2008 Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson and several other European Tour winners.

Nick Dougherty has had three European Tour wins in his career but the 32-year-old Englishman has struggled badly for form over the past three seasons.

The Liverpool-born player has earned less than £400 in 10 Challenge Tour events this season and lies 252nd in the rankings.

Kenneth Ferrie, sixth in the 2006 US Open and victorious in the 2005 European Open at the K Club, won on the main European Tour as recently as two years ago when he triumphed at the Austrian Open.

However, the Northumberland-born player lost his European Tour card at the end of 2012 and he is currently 97th in the Challenge rankings with his best finish this season 13th at last month's Tuscany Open.

Ross McGowan, who narrowly missed out on a Ryder Cup place in 2010, and Argentina's two-time European Tour winner Daniel Vancsik are other notable names in the Galgorm field.

Up and coming stars to look out include Portugal's Jose-Filipe Lima, Frenchman Francois Calmels, South Korean Sihwan Kim, Italy's Marco Crespi and Swede Jens Fahrbring who are all on course to earn full tour cards for next year from their Challenge Tour rankings.

Crespi and Fahrbring, who both have earned Challenge Tour wins over the last six weeks, will be involved in the marquee group with Hoey at 13:30 BST on Thursday.