Northern Ireland Open: Hoey expects strong field at Galgorm Castle

Clement Sordet celebrates his victory at the NI Open
Clement Sordet celebrates his victory at the NI Open in August 2015

Michael Hoey believes this year's 28-31 July date will help the Northern Ireland Open attract a strong field to Galgorm Castle.

The European Challenge Tour event will be part of a big week in the season with both the US PGA Championship and Women's British Open also taking place.

Tournament ambassador Hoey expects several European Tour winners to be in the Galgorm field.

They are set to come up against several up and coming stars of the future.

"The NI Open will attract an even stronger field than in previous years," says five-time European Tour winner Hoey.

"Especially because it has such a good place on the schedule."

Hoey's fellow Irish European Tour winners Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane and Simon Thornton are all expected to compete while Walker Cup hero from 2015, Ardglass man Cormac Sharvin, is also likely to tee up.

While Rory McIlroy and the other stars of world golf will be in action at the US PGA at Baltursol, there is no other event on in Europe during Northern Ireland Open week which could convince a number of well-known players to make the trip to the Ballymena venue.

Hoey says that many of his peers have already indicated that they intend to play at Galgorm.

"Players want to compete at Galgorm because they know the atmosphere and set-up makes it one of the best stop-offs of the season," adds the tournament ambassador.

Last year's event attracted a European Challenge Tour record attendance of 39,020 as Frenchman Clement Sordet finished on 17 under par to clinch a one-shot victory over American John Hahn.

Since taking on the role of tournament ambassador in 2013, Hoey has missed the cut on each occasion so the Belfast man is due a good showing at Galgorm.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell says the Northern Ireland Open will "once again be one of the sporting highlights of 2016".

"As golf grows in popularity and our local golfers continue to make their mark on the world stage, I am sure this event will once again provide a showcase of sporting excellence," added the minister.