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Gareth Shaw out to follow in Hoey's footsteps to European Tour

By Peter Hutcheon

Gareth Shaw is in no doubt that he can emulate Michael Hoey and graduate from the Challenge Tour to the main European Tour. It's not going to happen this year for the Lurgan man as he is only just inside the top 10 on the Order of Merit as the season nears its conclusion.

But he tees it up at Galgorm Castle in the best form he has enjoyed for a while and belies that he is coming to terms with what it takes to move up to the big time.

"My game's coming together nicely and I know I didn't do as well last year as I had wanted to do, so hopefully this year I can do better," he said.

"It's great to get to stay at home for a week.

"This is a course that I've had success on in the past so I know I can play well around here.

"It's all about keeping the ball in play, which I'm doing pretty well at the moment. I'm definitely looking forward to it."

Shaw is still in the hunt for a maiden Challenge Tour victory and he knows from Hoey that the only way to graduate is to win at least a couple of tournaments in a season and add in a few top fives and top-10s to boot.

The 28-year-old has made five cuts in a row and he had his best finish of the season at last month's Le Vaudreuil golf Challenge when he finished in a tie for eighth.

One thing is certain, Shaw and his fellow Ulstermen will be cheered on by a huge partisan crowd after the inaugural Northern Ireland Challenge Open at the Co Antrim venue broke all attendance records last year.

"Golf is massive here at the moment," he said.

"With having Rory (McIlroy), Graeme (McDowell) and Darren (Clarke), but especially Rory, Northern Ireland needs a Challenge Tour event. It would be crazy if we didn't.

"It's great that Galgorm host the event, put up the money and find the sponsors.

"I know the managing director Gary Henry pretty well and he works all year for the event and it's great to see people taking an interest in the lower levels.

"It's great to have all those people out there supporting you.

"If you are playing poorly you can hear the tuts and the groans, but if you play well, it's a different story.

"You feed off it, so I'm looking forward to having family and friends out there supporting me."

As has been well documented in the past week or so, Hoey missed the cut at the event last year, but Shaw reckons the tournament ambassador is still the man to beat this week.

"I know Michael pretty well, although I haven't spoken to him in a while," he said.

"His golf has been really solid this year. He'll be the man to beat on paper, but he knows that if he doesn't play well, he won't win."

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods has ended his professional relationship with swing coach Sean Foley.

The 38-year-old 14-time major winner, who has ruled himself out of selection for the upcoming Ryder Cup tournament at Gleneagles, had worked with Foley since 2010.

In a statement published on his official website, Woods said: "I'd like to thank Sean for his help as my coach and for his friendship. Sean is one of the outstanding coaches in golf today, and I know he will continue to be successful with the players working with him.

"With my next tournament not until my World Challenge event at Isleworth in Orlando, this is the right time to end our professional relationship."

After managing just 11 full tournament rounds on his return to action following back surgery, Woods failed to qualify for Tom Watson's United States team automatically and informed the PGA of America that he did not wish to be considered for one of the three wild card places.

Belfast Telegraph

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