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Michael Hoey hails Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke

Salute to Darren as NI Open returns to Galgorm

By Peter Hutcheon

Michael Hoey says the European Tour made exactly the right decision in picking fellow Ulsterman Darren Clarke as the next Ryder Cup captain.

Galgorm Castle's Tour pro hailed the choice of Clarke as he returned home to launch this year's Northern Ireland Open Challenge Tour event at Galgorm from August 6-9 this year.

"The Ryder Cup captain needs to be someone with a big personality and Darren certainly fits the bill," Hoey said.

"I think that's even more important when the cup is played in the US. They do like him over there with the cigar smoking and the good craic.

"But he works a lot harder than a lot of people realise - he's not just a party animal. He will cut a recognisable figure over there as well, which I think is important for a Ryder Cup captain.

"That's not to say the other candidates wouldn't have done a good job, but Darren has a bigger presence. He's been around the game a long time and he'll do a great job."

Hoey has won five times on the European Tour but he is yet to make a Ryder Cup team and that remains one of his great ambitions in the game.

"I was playing with Paul McGinley a couple of week ago in Kuala Lumpur and we were talking about that," he added.

"He was saying that watching me he didn't feel I was that far away from really making a breakthrough - maybe tighten up the chipping and the putting a little.

"I do need to be more consistent in the bigger tournaments and I know there is a long way to go, but playing in a Ryder Cup is something you dream about as a player.

"It was a confidence boost to hear that from Paul who was so impressive as captain last time out.

"It's a huge job being captain and there's an awful lot that goes on behind the scenes but I think that Darren Clarke is the right man for the job."

Galgorm Castle hope to turn the Northern Ireland Open into an event for the main European Tour.

The tournament, which began life on the Euro Pro Tour six years ago, has gone on to smash all attendance records on the European Challenge Tour in the last couple of years.

Organisers hope to improve again on the 34,000 spectators who flocked to the Ballymena club last season, when it moves to an earlier slot on the Challenge Tour schedule from August 6-9 this year.

"With the success the tournament has had and the huge numbers turning up, looking to make it an event on the European Tour is an obvious step for Galgorm to look at," Hoey said.

"Without a doubt it is one of the best tournaments on the Challenge Tour schedule and it's one that the players look forward to."

Campsie and healthcare solutions firm Sphere Global was announced as a new sponsor for this year's tournament at yesterday's launch. They join Ulster Bank, sponsors the tournament since its inception in 2009.

Securing local sponsorship is vital in staging tournaments both on the main European Tour and the Challenge Tour. The Irish Open at Royal County Down in May is almost entirely funded by public money.

Gary Henry, the managing director of Galgorm Castle said that their ambition was to grow the event annually.

"What tour it will be on, time will tell, he said. "Attracting sponsorship is the key to that and it's great to be able to bring on board a company like Sphere Global."

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