Michael Hoey, a four-time winner on The European Tour, will headline the field at the Country Antrim venue, hoping to add to his trophy haul, having also won three times on the Challenge Tour.Hoey has since played a part in Northern Ireland’s incredible story in world golf alongside current World Number One Rory McIlroy, 2011 Open Champion Darren Clarke and 2010 US Open Champion Graeme McDowell, while the staging of the Irish Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club in 2012 proved an unprecedented success.
The €170,000 Northern Ireland Open Challenge presents an opportunity for the next generation to follow in the footsteps of those superstars and begin their path to The European Tour.It is the first time Galgorm Castle, one of the country’s premier parkland courses set in the spectacular surrounds of an historical estate, will host a Challenge Tour event.
Gary Henry, General Manager of Galgorm Castle, said: “We are expecting big crowds at Galgorm Castle to see some of Europe’s top young players and some of the more established names as well as some top quality home grown talent.“The excitement is already building ahead of the tournament and, with the support of the people of Northern Ireland, we plan to make this one of the most exhilarating events on the Challenge Tour’s international schedule.”
Alain de Soultrait, Director of the Challenge Tour, said: “We are delighted to bring the Challenge Tour back to Northern Ireland, a country which has experienced such great success on the world golfing stage recently and which produced record crowds at last year’s Irish Open.“Galgorm Castle provides a superb venue which is fitting of a tournament of this stature and we are sure that in the coming years this will grow to become one of the premier events on the Challenge Tour schedule, creating more and more opportunities for talented young golfers throughout Ireland.
Hoey, whose biggest win came at the 2011 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, said: “I am deeply honoured to be the ambassador for the new Challenge Tour event at Galgorm Castle.
“The Challenge Tour was a hugely important part of my early career and has helped me develop into the player I am today. By hosting an event in Northern Ireland, Galgorm Castle Golf Club is contributing to the development of the next generation of Irish golfers and I am delighted to be able to play a part in the tournament.”Hoey claimed a top 15 finish the last time Northern Ireland hosted a Challenge Tour event in 2003, when Clarke emerged victorious three weeks after his famous victory at the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational, while another Open Champion – the winner at St Andrews in 2010, Louis Oosthuizen - finished tied 12th.