Belfast’s Michael Hoey ended a year of mental “torture” by completing an amazing Irish victory double in scorching Morocco.
Just minutes after Peter Lawrie grabbed the Spanish Open in Seville, Hoey snatched his third Challenge Tour win by a shot in the Banque Populaire Moroccan Classic.
It wasn’t easy for Hoey, who was two clear and cruising after five birdies in the first 12 holes before bogeys at the 14th and 16th left him “choking”.
But he rammed home a 20 foot birdie chance at the 17th to close the door and parred the last for a 68 and a one-shot win over Scot Greig Hutcheon and Julien Quesne of France on 12-under par.
Now Hoey, 29, wants to push on and join Irish winners like Lawrie, Graeme McDowell, Damien McGrane and Darren Clarke on the main tour next year.
Buoyed by a brilliant short game display, he said: “That’s why I am working. Being in those big events in Loch Lomond and Wentworth, it is what it is all about.
“And seeing Damien McGrane and Darren and Graeme win and now Peter Lawrie, just gives you confidence. I’ve taken the first step on that road.
“It’s a fantastic boost to my confidence after a pretty bad end of the year last season.
“I won in Italy just over a year ago but played terribly after that with too many technical thoughts in my head.
“I was tortured and had zero confidence. Then I missed the first three cuts of this year by dabbling in different swing thoughts.”
Hoey failed to push on after his Italian victory last season and eventually finished 54th in the rankings after missing 10 of the next 15 cuts.
But with the top 20 in the rankings earning full tour cards, he’s hoping to finish the job off this time after a cheque for €24,000 boosted him from 141st to sixth in the money list.
Hoey added: “It was short game that did it for me this week. I’ve been working on it with Andrew Ferguson at Royal Belfast and it made all the difference.
“I chipped in twice and stiffed them a lot of the time. I felt I could hole them and that was the key as well as holing putts. I choked a bit on the back nine but everyone chokes. It just feels great to win again.”
Dubliner Stephen Browne tied for 17th after a closing 70.