Irish Open Player Profiles: Michael Hoey
The spotlight at Royal Portrush will be firmly focussed on Northern Ireland’s Big Three – Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.
But hovering in the wings ready to make waves on the spectacular North Coast will be Ballymoney born Michael Hoey.
Quietly and without as much fuss Hoey, 33, has been establishing himself on the European Tour and can already boast of success this year.
In fact Hoey has now triumphed four times on Tour.
Winning the Trophee Hassan II back in March in Morrocco – the first player from Northern Ireland to do so - meant it was his second consecutive season with a win under his belt.
At the time modest Hoey confessed: “It’s all a bit surreal but it always feels like that for me.
“I shot two over par in the first round and was thinking I might struggle to make the cut.”
Last year he won the Madeira Islands Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship beating off the challenge of Rory McIlroy who was second at St Andrews with Graeme McDowell tied for third.
It led to him being named European Tour Golfer of the Month for September - the first time he picked up the prestigious award.
At the time he said: “This is the biggest week of my career. To be acknowledged by the European Tour amongst so many other worthy candidates is a real privilege.”
So there should be no lack of confidence going into the Irish Open having already proved beyond all doubt that he has the temperament for a big occasion and when he gets into a winning position he has what it takes to see it through.”
Meanwhile his three shot winning margin in Morrocco was the widest since the event became part of The European Tour in 2010 and his final 36 hole total of 130 (-14) was the lowest of the year.
His victory was the 44th time a Northern Ireland golfer had won on the European Tour and it extended his Tour exemption until the end of 2014 and gained him a place in next year’s Volvo Golf Champions and took his European Tour career earnings to more than two million Euros.
But for now Hoey’s thoughts have turned to Portrush and he says: “I’m relishing the chance to have a crack at the Irish Open.
“Royal Portrush is a legendary course where I managed to win the North of Ireland Amateur Championship so it means a lot to me.
“It’s a tournament I would particularly love to do well in as would a lot of professionals who are also looking forward to playing there.
“Royal Portrush is special and I would love to see The Open Championship played there but that might be a few years away yet.”
Hoey enjoys basking in the glory of being part of the great Northern Ireland golfing bonanza.
He insists: “For a country with a population of just over one and a half million people and to have produced golfers of the quality of Rory, Graeme and Darren is pretty incredible.
“On top of that Gareth Maybin is also making his mark while Paul Cutler and Ian Dunbar have bright futures.
“Rory, Graeme and Darren doing so well is a big boost to the rest of us. It creates respect among the other professionals and that helps boost confidence.”
Name: Michael Hoey
Turned Pro: 2002
European Titles: 4
PGA Titles: 0