I bumped into an unexpected visitor at the PREM Group Irish Masters at Tulfarris last week. European Tour regular, Michael Hoey had entered the competition having decided to skip the Challenge Tour’s KPMG Trophy. I couldn’t help myself but ask why he’d tweaked his schedule:
“If I played Belgium this week, I’d be struggling to make the cut because the cut’s going to be about six-under par on the Challenge Tour,” he told me.
“It’s hard to know what courses suit you on that circuit. This is a good test of golf and a good practice but if I played Challenge Tour this week, I don’t know whether that style of golf, 26-under par winning, would’ve suited me.”
As it turned out, 23-under par won in Belgium but it was an astute observation from the experienced campaigner regardless. As Hoey pointed out later on his Twitter, 18-under par for four rounds at Millennium Golf Club would’ve snuck you a top-10 finish; that’s some scoring regardless of what course you’re playing.
The passing grade just to make the weekend fell at five-under; it was six-under at the Made in Denmark Challenge when West Waterford’s Gary Hurley was the unlucky man to miss out on a record cut-mark by one.
You’d have to feel for our fledgling pros when trying to make this jump. Hoey’s no pup at this stage but even he can recognise a standard of golf that’s never been seen before. Lads are stronger, fitter and better and it makes the achievements of the likes of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry all the more remarkable in a game where so few will ever succeed.
Still, against all odds, Ireland continues to produce pros to meet the desired standard. With Cormac Sharvin up to sixth on the Road to Mallorca standings on the Challenge Tour, where the top-15 earn European Tour status next season, and Hoey entering a spell of up to five lucrative starts beginning at this week’s Porsche European Open, hopes springs eternal for Ireland’s fairway fliers and we wish them every bit of luck along the way.