Michael Hoey is relishing the opportunity to fight for a long-awaited return to the European Tour as he prepares to tee it up at the British Challenge Presented by Modest! Golf Management this week.
The Northern Irishman, who has five European Tour titles to his name, arrives at The Belfry Hotel & Resort having secured his best finish for over seven years last week, finishing as joint-runner up after losing out in a play-off at the B-NL Challenge Trophy.
Hoey’s tie for second saw him leap 32 spots on the Road to Mallorca Rankings to 26th place and gives the 42-year-old the chance to compete for a spot in the all-important top 20 on the season-long Rankings, which will secure graduation to the European Tour.
“I’ve got a great chance,” he said. “It’s nice to be playing for something; if you’re 58th on the Rankings, which I was, it’s hard to have a chance. Now I’ve got the Grand Final and all the big events and it’s an opportunity. I still have to play great, but at least I’ve got a sniff. Even at my age, I’m playing some of my best golf so I’m really focussed on that.
“I appreciate just being able to play. Last year I was looking at different things, trying to bring in some money. I’m 42 now and the standard is up so much. This young guys hit the ball so far and the golf is great, so I didn’t know how much longer I would be playing for.
“I had a lot of time to think about things and ultimately I said this year I’m going to give it a good go and I’m really pleased. The last five weeks I’ve had some really good results, particularly last week, so I’m just enjoying it, which is the main thing. I wasn’t enjoying it for a couple of years and now I’m really enjoying it.”
This week’s event will be played on the PGA National Course at The Belfry, however the 2011 Alfred Dunhill Links Champion made his professional European Tour debut on the Brabazon Course at the 2002 Benson & Hedges International Open, an occasion which harbours fond memories.
“I remember Nick Faldo played behind us in the practice round and he was a hero of mine,” he said. “Bernhard Langer might have played, a lot of legends that I grew up watching on TV played in that event and it was the first time I played for big money. I think I finished 30th and earned £8,000 and I felt like a millionaire after that.”
Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia joins Hoey in the field at this week’s British Challenge as he bids to earn a third victory of the year and immediate promotion to the European Tour, while recent winners Espen Kofstad, of Norway, and Welshman Stuart Manley will also tee it up in England. Jonathan Yates, Tom McKibbin, Gavin Moynihan, Tyler Hogarty, Conor O’Rourke, Charlie Williams, Robin Dawson, John Murphy and the world’s leading disability golfer Brendan Lawlor all take their chance.
The action gets under way at 6:50am local time on Thursday September 2, with Hoey teeing it up at 1:10pm local time alongside Englishman Chris Hanson and two-time South African Challenge Tour winner JC Ritchie.
- Full scoring HERE