Michael Hoey was delighted to see his game hold up against the rising stars of the Challenge Tour after falling out of a four-man playoff at the first extra hole at The Dutch.
The 42-year old signed for a closing three-under 68, missing a birdie putt at the final hole to reach 12-under par and win the event in regulation play. In the end it was a four-man playoff to decide the fate of the B-NL Challenge Trophy but Hoey could only manage a par down the par-5 18th as all three of his rivals made birdie, leaving the Ballymoney pro to reflect on a near-miss in Holland.
“I kind of impressed myself,” Hoey said, who ties second, banks €20,000 and moves up to 26th on the Road to Mallorca standings. “Yesterday  was probably my best round all year. I had a 63 in Fancourt but that was better as it was tougher conditions yesterday.
“I hung in well today. Didn’t have my best game but still shot three-under to get into the playoff. I hit a great putt on the last in regulation, it just hit something but I’d holed my fair share already. The standard’s very high in the playoff. Guys are so good now, all three made birdie so it’s tough.
“I’m not quite as long as them now at the grand old age of 42. I decided to lay up and didn’t hit a good enough wedge shot and as I said, the standard’s so good now. It’s massively improved compared to 15 years ago when I was playing quite a lot on the Tour. It’s great to see how the game has elevated itself.”
It was only twelve months ago when Hoey looked to have left the game behind altogether, working as a DHL driver to pay the bills as the Challenge Tour schedule was totally decimated by Covid-19. A five-time Tour winner, Hoey’s results have largely underwhelmed this year but bolstered by a fresh appreciation for his work, he admits he was able to enjoy the heat of the battle, and hopes to continue to do so for a few more years to come.
“It was fun,” he said of the playoff. “You’ve achieved something to get there. You never quite know what’s going to happen but it’s still a really good week. Tied second gives me a chance to get closer to the top-20. I’ve had poor results lately despite playing well so I’m quite happy to have moved up a bit.
“I definitely appreciate it. I’d almost sort of retired last year but I’m really enjoying it now. It’s tough on the Challenge Tour – you’re caddying for yourself and it’s physically tough, a lot of travel and that but I’m enjoying it and thankful that I’m able to play still so I might keep going for another year or two, who knows.”
Alfredo Garcia-Heredia came out on top in the four-way playoff to secure his first European Challenge Tour title. A dramatic play-off unfolded as Hoey fell at the first hurdle and Magnus at the third before Garcia-Heredia eventually birdied the seventh play-off hole to defeat Helligkilde, who could only manage a par.
Garcia-Heredia believes he is more confident on the greens when he is the underdog and despite a long day in difficult conditions, he was delighted to be taking home a maiden Challenge Tour trophy at the age of 39.
“It was a long day but I’m now standing here with a trophy, so I would do it every day,” he said. “I find that when I have to hole putt to keep me in the play-off I hit them better than when they are to win, I don’t know why that is. I holed a nice one on the par three to win it.”
The Spaniard kept self-belief and had a feeling victory was on the horizon having been in fantastic form this season with three top five finishes coming into the B-NL Challenge Trophy.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “I knew this moment would come at some point this year because I have been playing solid and I am finishing up the leaderboard at most events. I played really well and I love the golf course. I kept myself in the race today after starting with two bogeys and it was overall a very good week for me.”
“I said at the start of the year when I played well in the Canary Islands and in Ireland. Some weeks when you play well you don’t win and sometimes you win when you don’t expect to.”
The Road to Mallorca now visits England, with the British Challenge Presented by Modest! Golf Management taking place from September 2-5.
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