It may be the 20th anniversary of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship but this week also marks a decade since Michael Hoey brilliantly captured the biggest victory of his pro career at the Home of Golf in Scotland
Hoey secured a third of five European Tour titles with his two-shot success over fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy. Hoey produced three rounds of 66 and proudly strode up the final fairway at the legendary Old Course in posting a score 68 to finish clear of the then reigning U.S. Open champion.
And while the memories of his win remain crystal clear in the mind of the now 42-year-old father of two, Hoey was reminded of his win in enjoying a meal on Tuesday in the famed Jigger Inn that sits proudly to the right of the 17th fairway at the Home of Golf.
“I was looking for a meal last night and the Jigger seemed to be the only place open but then in walking in I bumped into Michael Vaughan, who I had played with here in the Dunhill a few years ago,” said Hoey.
“He spoke about my win back in 2011 and asked if he could buy me a beer and then there were other guys in there and all of a sudden, they were also reminding me of my win which was really nice.
“Looking back on the win, it’s always about chipping-and-putting here on the three links courses though I recall holing a bunker shot at Carnoustie that was key. I also made a lot of putts which was so helpful. The thing is also you don’t need to drive it all that well here on the Old Course, as there is plenty of room off the tee whereas at Kingsbarns Links you have to chip it really good.
“And the pro-am format of the event seemed to help me as I felt like I was away from everybody and I could really focus on my game.”
Hoey captured his five European Tour wins in a four-year stretch, breaking through in the 2009 with a play-off victory at the Portugal Open and then capturing a fifth at the 2013 Russian Open.
He’s also won four times on the secondary Challenge Tour and whilst taking nothing away from each of his wins, victory in the Dunhill Links was easily the biggest of his career whilst the €588,000 first prize clearly was the largest payday.
“Winning the Dunhill was by far my biggest win, not only given the strength of the field that year but also the prize-money and the world rankings boost,” he said. “As well, it was at the Home of Golf so what a great place to win.”
It had been a somewhat inconsistent 2011 season for Hoey. He arrived in Scotland having won in Madeira earlier in the year but had missed the KLM Open cut the week prior to crossing the North Sea.
Hoey then lost his main Tour card at the end of the 2016 season and since then his European Tour appearances have been few and far between while this year he has focussed on the secondary Challenge Tour, playing just the one European Tour event at the ISPS Handa World Invitational.
He’s currently lying 31st on the Race to Mallorca with the top-20 at close of November’s Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final earning full main Tour status.
“My season has been pretty good having been beaten in a play-off in Holland back in August but then the foot has to be on the accelerator all the time on the Challenge Tour,” he said.
“The courses, not as though they are easy, but you could be leading the tournament and then a guy can shoot six-under the final round as the guys are just so good now.
“I was in Portugal last week and again it was a 20-under par winning week. It’s just not easy as you know it’s going to be around 20-under winning each week and the difference between the Tours now are so small. I’ve got three events left on the Challenge Tour this year so the big goal is to finish top-20.
“It’s just awesome also being into this week’s Dunhill event. It meant missing the Challenge Tour event this week in France but the prize-money here in Scotland this week is huge and it’s where I wanted to be. Besides, they’re three great golf courses and it would be so nice to repeat what I achieved here 10-years ago.”
Hoey will begin his quest for a second Dunhill Links trophy out in the second last group at 11.12am (Thursday) at Kingsbarns Links.
- Full scoring HERE