The countdown to the Northern Ireland Open Challenge, presented by Clannah and Xjet, at Galgorm Castle is well and truly on and promises to be a week-long festival of golf when world class golfers tee it up at the Ballymena venue from August 29 to September 1.
The Challenge Tour returns to Northern Ireland for the first time in 10 years and the Galgorm showpiece has drawn a considerable amount of interest, especially after Michael Hoey, NI Open Challenge tournament ambassador, recently won the Russian Open.
In timely fashion, Hoey landed his fifth European Tour title in Moscow with a thoroughly dominant performance in the Russian capital where he led from start to finish.
“It’s pretty amazing to think that I have won five European Tour titles,” said Hoey immediately after his win.
“It is a great feeling. Hopefully I can get at least another one before the end of the season.”
With less than three weeks until the NI Open Challenge, Hoey would like nothing more than to make that next win in front of home crowds.
The 34-year-old has travelled the world competing in golf tournaments but says there is something special about home galleries.
“We play in plenty of great tournaments around the world in China, India, the Middle East but they rarely have the same atmosphere as home,” said Hoey.
“Ask any player and they will tell you they all prefer playing in front of good crowds. You hit a good shot and you get a good reaction.
“Last year’s Irish Open at Portrush was great, so was Carton House this year and I know crowds in the region of 30,000 are expected over the week at Galgorm in what promises to another great atmosphere.”
There will be plenty to cheer about for Hoey headlines a list of star names, from home and abroad, who will tee it up at the Ballymena venue.
Alan Dunbar, the 2012 Amateur champion and Walker Cup winner, who turned professional after this year’s US Masters will be another big draw at Galgorm.
The laid back 23-year-old has adjusted well to life in the paid ranks and will be one to watch.
“I can’t wait to compete at home again,” said Dunbar.
“Galgorm is always in great condition, especially the greens. One of my earlier memories was competing there at the Ulster Youths (2006 when Galgorm Touring Professional Gareth Shaw won). I know it was low scoring when the EuroPro was played there too so I will need to get the putter going to have any chance.”