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Hoey thinking big after Hassan Trophy win

By Frank Brownlow

Michael Hoey — the man leading the charge to join Ulster’s ‘Big Three’ of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke — has been described at various times as being from Ballymoney, Bangor and Belfast.

And last night Hoey — who at the weekend added the latest accolade to Ulster’s long list of golfing victories when he won the Hassan Trophy — was happy to put the record straight.

“I was born in Ballymoney but grew up in east Belfast — Dundonald to be exact.

“I played a lot of golf at Shandon Park as a youngster but my family also had a summer home in Castlerock so I was lucky enough to play the likes of Royal Portrush, Rathmore and Castlerock itself on a regular basis,” he explained.

Hoey is confident his €250,000 victory in Morocco at the weekend can propel him towards a place on the 2012 Ryder Cup team, where he could join McIlroy, McDowell and Clarke.

“I would love to play in the Ryder Cup. It would be unbelievable, something to look back on at the end of your career,” he said.

“To challenge for a Ryder Cup place I need to win more prize money — doing well in the Majors and World Championships could open the door. But the Hassan Trophy is a big step in the right direction.”

The victory was Hoey’s fourth on the European Tour and followed on from his big triumph at last year’s Dunhill Links Championship.

“I want to push now for a place in the world’s top 50.

“That would allow me to play in more Majors and hopefully do well in them,” added Hoey, who hopes to play in the US Open ahead of the Irish Open at Royal Portrush at the end of June. Then comes the Open and the Bridgestone Invitational.

Hoey is relishing the chance to have a crack at the Irish Open, hoping that the Open itself will come to the course in the years ahead. “Royal Portrush is a legendary course. I managed to win the North of Ireland Amateur there so it’s a course that means a lot to me.

“It’s a tournament I would particularly love to do well in.

“I know a lot of the professionals are looking forward to playing there. A lot of them have heard all about it through Darren Clarke.

“I’m sure the field for the Irish Open will be very strong. I was speaking to Justin Rose recently and I know he intends to be there.

“I would love to see the Open at Royal Portrush as well but I think it might be a few years away yet.

“Personally I think Royal Portrush would be a great venue for the Open.”

Hoey attempted to give some insight into Northern Ireland’s ‘golden era’.

“For a country with a population of just over one and a half million people to have produced golfers of the quality of Rory, Graeme and Darren is pretty incredible.

“On top of that, Gareth Maybin is coming through and Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar have bright futures.

“Having the likes of Rory, Graeme and Darren doing so well is a big help to the rest of us as it creates a lot of respect for Northern Ireland golfers among the other professionals.

“That’s a help because it boosts your confidence.

“It’s difficult to know what to put the success of our golfers down to.

“Obviously we have good courses but I think timing has a lot to do with it. Darren’s Major came late in his career, Graeme was mid career, Rory’s Major came early on. So we have this ‘golden era’.

“But I’m sure we can expect a few more Majors. You would certainly think Rory would win quite a few more,” he said.

At most other times, Michael Hoey would be the star of Ulster golf. But this gifted professional is operating in the shadow of three Major winners.

But if the man from Dundonald can continue to build on his Tour triumphs to date, then perhaps the days of a ‘Big Four’ may not be far away.

Belfast Telegraph

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