Tait: Hoey's success bucking a trend

Michael Hoey

Michael Hoey

Michael Hoey has done well to escape the British Amateur curse. Victory in the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco marked his fourth European Tour victory.

That’s four more wins than most British Amateur champions.

Hoey’s final-round, 7-under 65 gave him a three-shot victory over Ireland’s Damien McGrane and the first-place check of €250,000.

Hoey won the 2001 British Amateur Championship at Prestwick, prevailing over Ian Campbell. That should have put a curse on his professional aspirations.

With a few exceptions, British Amateur champions have not gone on to enjoy much success in the professional ranks. For example, since World War II, only one British Amateur champion, has gone on to win a major championship. Jose Maria Olazabal defeated Colin Montgomerie in 1984 at Formby Golf Club and has gone on to win two Masters. In comparison, 11 U.S. Amateur champions have gone on to win majors.

Nevermind majors, many former British Amateur champions struggle to make it on the European Tour. Hoey seemed to be going down that route too after winning at Prestwick.

He needed six trips to the European Tour Q-School after turning pro in 2002. He didn’t get his European Tour card until 2008. That didn’t come as a surprise to many people who attended that Amateur at Prestwick. Hoey’s name didn’t exactly jump out of a field that included Edoardo Molinari, Nick Dougherty, Marcus Fraser, Graeme McDowell, Thomas Aiken, Brandt Snedeker, Gareth Maybin, Richard Finch, Rafael Cabrera, Richard Sterne and Scott Strange.

Hoey arrived at Prestwick after a failed attempt to play college golf. He only last six months at Clemson before returning home. His low ball flight might have been perfect for links golf at Prestwick and back home in Northern Ireland, but it wasn’t good for college golf. Nor did it suit the professional game either.

Yet Hoey persevered through seven tough years. He capitalized on getting his tour card at the 2008 Q-School by winning the 2009 Estoril Open de Portugal. Last year he won another two tournaments, picking up the Madeira Island Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He bettered countryman Rory McIlroy in the latter by two shots at St. Andrews.

Hoey’s Alfred Dunhill victory put him into contention for a Ryder Cup spot, and winning in Morocco has moved him even closer to a trip to Medinah this September. Hoey is now ninth on the European points list.

If British Amateur champions have failed to impress in the majors, then their record in the Ryder Cup isn’t exactly sterling either. Only two champions, Olazabal and Sergio Garcia, have gone on to play in the Ryder Cup. In contrast, 15 U.S. Amateur champions have played in the biennial competition.

“I've not really been thinking about it, but I'm obviously in contention,” Hoey said when asked about making the European team.

Not many British Amateur champions have even come close to making the team, but then Hoey is bucking a trend.

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