Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Maybin on World Cup glory trail

The last thing Gareth Maybin expected when he returned home this year from America was to end his season representing Ireland at the World Cup.

But he along with fellow Belfast man Michael Hoey will indeed be playing for his country in China next week, rubbing shoulders with the game's elite.

"You could say in a way we're representing Northern Ireland at the World Cup," he said as he prepared to travel to the Far East.

" But it's a great honour to be representing Ireland and we're both delighted to be going."

Apart from qualifying for next week's big tournament in the Caribbean, this is the first time as Maybin will have represented Ireland as a professional, although both he and Hoey did so many times in their amateur days.

Maybin turned professional two years ago and has spent much of that time in America.

But he returned home earlier this year and dedicated himself to earning his European Tour card by playing on the Challenge Tour.

"I'll be looking for a house around Ballyclare after the World Cup and basing myself there," he says.

"And I'm looking forward to getting back home from China, hanging up the clubs for while and having a good rest at home."

In the meantime the World Cup is a great boost to his and Hoey's profile.

Once Open champion Padraig Harrington declined to renew his partnership with Paul McGinley - which would have guaranteed Ireland a place in the Shenzen finals - the World Cup became a distinctly awkward proposition.

" Qualification in Aruba clashed with the Dunhill Links and that made it difficult for the likes of Darren Clarke or Graeme McDowell to go," explained Maybin.

"It came to Michael and myself to go to Aruba for qualifying and we thought it was a great opportunity.

" And we played really well out there.

"Our games are kind of similar but when I didn't play well Michael stepped in and I was able to do the same when he hit a bad shot.

"We worked well together and we hope we can do the same next week."

There was disappointment for both men at last week's Qualifying School in Spain where neither managed to make this week's final stage in the hope of going on to earn their cards to play on next year's European Tour.

It was a blessing in one sense that they would have faced a nightmare journey to Hong Kong next week had they made it through to the final stages.

And although Hoey, who played on the main tour two years ago, will be disappointed to face another year on the Challenge Tour, Maybin is not discouraged by that fact at all.

"I finished in 49th place on the Order of Merit from ten events and I'm very happy with that," the 27-year-old said.

"I got myself into contention a few times and led one event.

"It's so much easier to get your card by playing over a season on the Challenge Tour than depending on having two really great weeks at the Qualifying School.

"I didn't play at that badly last week, just didn't putt at that well and hopefully that'll go better next week. I've been looking up the course online and it looks fantastic with perfect conditions as well."

Although Hoey and Maybin knew each other from playing amateur international golf, they really struck up a strong friendship on Maybin's return.

And that bond certainly hasn't hurt when it came to playing together out on the course.

They go into next week's world cup - where England are represented by Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, South Africa by Trevor Immelman and Retief Goosen and Denmark by Soren and Anders Hansen, under little pressure.

But with many of the game's top names - no Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk or Phil Mickelson for USA for example - with a good chance of doing well.

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