Michael Hoey is a Northern Ireland sporting success story who largely goes unnoticed.
A professional for over a decade, with five European Tour wins to his name and over €3,000,000 pocketed in tour earnings, Hoey is much more than your archetypal ‘journeyman golfer’.
He may not get the column inches of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke but Michael has played his part in putting Northern Ireland on the map as a golfing destination and he’s particulary proud of his assocation with the NI Open at Galgorm Castle.
“People often say to me, ‘how’s your tournament going’,” said Michael, who is now in his third year as NI Open tournament ambassador.
“Well, it’s not ‘my tournament’ but that’s a nice thing to hear.
“I am playing a part in it and I’d like to think that I have helped get support for the tournament.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from contributing in some way to the success of the tournament.
“A lot of the credit for my involvement must go to my wife Bev. Right at the outset, Gary Henry [MD Galgorm Castle] spoke to Bev about linking up with the event. Bev discussed it with me and we thought it would be a good thing to do.
“She has been very involved from the outset. She is a very good organiser, and I couldn’t have done it without her encouragement. She is always thinking about the big picture.
“The people at Galgorm Castle are brilliant to work with. They are very professional and run a very good business.
“Personally, I have got a lot out of being involved with the NI Open. I have got more comfortable dealing with the media and the corporate/sponsor side of things.
“It’s a big part of life on tour now and it’s something I wasn’t good at when I first got started.”
The only negative aspect of Michael’s association with the event has so far been his failure to make the cut in two attempts.
It’s not for the want of trying. It’s not easy being the face of a tournament, just ask Rory McIlroy and Germany’s Martin Kaymer who both missed out at their respective national opens this year.
“It will be different this year. I putted terribly last year but this year I am putting much better so even if I don’t hit it good I still should make the cut,” added Michael who played some solid golf on his way to the quarter-finals of last week’s Paul Lawrie Match Play tournament.
“I won’t be doing too much at Galgorm in the build up. I will go up Wednesday for the Pro-Am but the rest of the time I will be taking it easy.
“The people at Galgorm have been very good, they realise I just need to play golf but they don’t go overboard with the media and corporate engagements.
“In fact, The Irish Open is probably harder in that sense and certainly this year, with it being at Royal County Down, I had more stuff to do around that event.
“So I am not going in with any expectations this year. I will focus on just making the cut and if I do that, we’ll look to push on over the weekend.”
The third edition of the NI Open, which now has a plum date on the schedule, is shaping up to be the biggest yet.
The ‘home’ interest will also be boosted by the likes of Simon Thornton, Peter Lawrie and Damien McGrane, who are all regulars on the European Tour.