Michael Hoey’s one-shot victory at the Banque Populaire Morroccan Classic on the European Challenge Tour made it a double for Ireland after Peter Lawrie’s win at the Open de España earlier in the day.
Hoey held his nerve and survived a late charge from overnight leader Greig Hutcheon of Scotland to secure a third Challenge Tour title which saw him climb to sixth place in the Rankings.
The man from Belfast, who looked to be cruising to victory until he dropped shots on the 14th and 16th holes at El Jadida Sofitel Golf Resort, birdied the 17th for a round of 68 and a 12 under par aggregate score to finish one clear of Hutcheon and France’s Julien Quesne.
Hoey, a former British Amateur Champion and a member of the triumphant 2001 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team, has now set his sights on a top five finish in the Rankings and a return to The European Tour.
The 29 year old said: “My short game was very good today, and it has been all week. Chipping and putting well normally wins you golf tournaments, and so it proved. I didn’t think I would win today because Greig’s been playing well and I started the round a few shots back, so it was a nice surprise.
“I came into the tournament in good form after a decent finish in France last week, so my confidence is slowly returning after I missed a few cuts out in South America. I won a Challenge Tour event at about the same stage last season, but then got too technical and made too many changes to my swing, which meant I lost my way a little. But I’ve gone back to basics, and I’m going to keep it simple from now on.”
Commenting on the current state of golf in Ireland following Lawrie’s play-off victory in Seville, Hoey said: “Irish golf is obviously in rude health at the moment. Padraig [Harrington] started the trend at The Open last year, and we’ve gone on from there.
“Seeing the likes of Damien McGrane and Darren Clarke win recently has made me even more determined to earn my place back on The European Tour. This is the first major step on that road.”
Hutcheon’s final hole birdie for a second consecutive round of 70 was not enough to secure his second title on Moroccan soil, but it was good enough to claim second place alongside Quesne, who carded six birdies and a solitary bogey en route to a round of 67.
Earlier in the day, England’s Adam Gee had shot a 64 to set a new course record. Gee, who finished the first day as joint leader but subsequently dropped out of contention after two indifferent rounds, carded eight birdies in a flawless round of golf to finish in a tie for 25th on three under par.