NI Open: Tournament ambassador Michael Hoey hopes for return to form at Galgorm

Michael Hoey shakes hands with Stormont Minister Simon Hamilton at the opening of Galgorm Castle's new Fun Golf area on Wednesday
Michael Hoey insists that he has enjoyed his ambassadorial role with the Northern Ireland Open

Michael Hoey hopes his ambassadorial duties at the Northern Ireland Open can help spur a revival in a season which he admits has been "torture at times".

The five-time European Tour winner missed 11 successive cuts earlier this season amid swing problems and health woes following sinus surgery.

"I messed up my schedule and I wasn't swinging well either," said Hoey ahead of this week's Galgorm Castle event.

"I did eight out of 10 weeks at the start and picked up a few bugs.

"I was catching colds on planes, had a food problem in China and then had a dose of the flu in Malaysia when it was just so hot and tiring.

"I should have gone home for three weeks after that but I liked the course in Australia (Perth) and went down there. That was such a bad decision."

Hoey's early exit at the Irish Open in mid-May was his 10th straight missed cut and despite a promising opening 70 at Wentworth a week later, a second-round 78 led to another Friday evening departure at the European Tour's flagship event.

Nordea nightmare compounds Hoey woes

A week later, the Belfast man appeared set for a morale-boosting top-20 finish at the Nordea Masters in Sweden only for a quintuple bogey eight at the 71st hole to send him plummeting down the field to a share of 41st.

"I somehow managed to par the last," smiles Hoey as he recalls his Stockholm woe.

"I hit it twice in the water. Golf is unapologetic at times. It highlighted that I was gripping the club a bit weak. I hit the shots a little bit short right."

In his four most recent tournaments, Hoey has made two cuts and an improved putting display in his last event, the Scottish Open, gives him tentative grounds for optimism for the coming weeks as he attempts to give himself an opportunity to hold on to his tour card, or at least find some form ahead of a trip to tour school.

"Graeme Storm has been in my position the last two years and I'll certainly at least need one second-place finish and a couple of other top 10s. A massive amount is required," adds Hoey, currently 194th in the Race to Dubai with earning of just over 31,000 Euros.

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Niall Horan has invited Tom McKibbin to play in the Northern Ireland Open

While Hoey continues to work with Dubai-based Northern Irish coach Justin Parsons, he has also been having recent sessions with his former swing guru, South African Jamie Gough, whose regular pupils include Andy Sullivan.

"Jamie strengthened my grip up a lot at the Scottish Open and I definitely wouldn't have made the cut without that.

"When I won the Dunhill Links event in 2011 I had quite a strong left-hand grip but I then had problems with my takeaway and started hooking the ball."

Hoey undertook his tournament ambassador role at the last three Northern Ireland Opens with his main card already secured for the following season but managed to miss the Galgorm cut on each occasion.

He is hoping the golfing gods are in a kinder mood this week.

"If I can get the takeaway right hopefully I can definitely make the cut and actually do a bit better than that. I'm feeling quite good.

One Direction star Niall Horan is greeted by fans at Galgorm Castle on Wednesday
Niall Horan's Golf Management company is involved in this week's Northern Ireland Open

"Ryan McGuigan, who is from Coleraine, and who has worked with Matteo Manassero, Danny Willett and Richie Ramsay, is caddying for me and I think will help me. He's very good mentally."

Despite his 2016 struggles, Hoey insists that he enjoys his promotional work around the Northern Ireland Open.

On Wednesday, the Belfast man, along with One Direction star Niall Horan and Stormont Minister Simon Hamilton, helped officially open a new six-hole Fun Golf course for children and a 36-hole putting arena modelled on the famous Himalayas Putting Course at St Andrews.

"The tournament has been really good for me getting my name out there and I've enjoyed working with Gary Henry and Ross Oliver and all the very professional people at Galgorm."

With the feeling mutual, Galgorm staff and members will be willing on the father-of-two when he starts his Northern Ireland Open challenge at 08:30 BST on Thursday.

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